Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam appears via videoconference at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday April 6, 2021, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam appears via videoconference at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday April 6, 2021, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Younger, healthier people need intensive care quickly with variants of COVID-19: Tam

The number of confirmed cases of the three variants of concern now circulating in Canada has exploded

Young, healthy people are ending up in intensive care units more often as the more contagious and deadlier variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 take over.

In some places the B.1.1.7 variant has become the dominant strain, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday.

Provincial health officials are reporting increasing numbers of hospital admissions of younger patients who soon need intensive care, she added.

“Many of them deteriorate quite quickly and have to be admitted to the ICU quite immediately.”

Tam said there were on average 6,100 new cases of COVID-19 a day over the last week, and 31 deaths, up from 4,600 new cases and 26 deaths a week earlier.

But the hospitalization numbers concern her the most and show while more people need hospital care, the number requiring intensive care is growing even faster.

In the last week, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose four per cent to an average of 2,400 people a day, she said. At the same time the number of people in ICU grew by 18 per cent to 780 people.

That means about one in every three patients hospitalized with COVID-19 now need critical care. In mid-January, when hospitalizations during the second wave of the pandemic peaked at 4,775, about one-fifth, or 880 people, were in the ICU.

Several jurisdictions are reporting that a majority of patients in the hospital are now under the age of 60, and physicians across the country are increasingly taking to social media trying to drive home that this is not just a virus that attacks the weak or the old.

“Younger people think they are invincible,” tweeted Dr. Kevin McLeod, an internal medicine specialist in Vancouver. “That feeling quickly fades when we are blasting you with 100% oxygen … and all you really hear is a team debating pros and cons of intubating you and hooking you up to a ventilator.”

The number of confirmed cases of the three variants of concern now circulating in Canada exploded over the last week, going to more than 15,200 from 9,000 on March 30. The B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, accounts for 92 per cent of those, but the numbers are delayed as it takes several days to confirm the specific variant in play.

The P.1 variant first identified in Brazil is also charging ahead quickly, particular in British Columbia, where 737 of the 857 P.1. cases in Canada have been confirmed.

Tam said chief public health officers from the federal and provincial governments met over the weekend to discuss the P.1 spread, and are working to double efforts to manage the exposures of known P.1 cases.

She pushed again against Canadians travelling anywhere at the moment, be it internationally or within the country. Interprovincial travel is believed to have spread the P.1 variant between British Columbia and Alberta in recent weeks.

Lab studies suggest vaccines are less effective against this variant, she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also urging Canadians not to let up, even though everyone is fed up and tired of COVID-19.

“This isn’t the news any of us wanted, but hospitalizations are surging,” he said. “ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading. And even people who had convinced themselves they didn’t need to be concerned are getting sick.”

Tam and others also reminded people that vaccines are helping but aren’t going to be a panacea. Canadians must still limit interpersonal contacts, wear masks and not socialize indoors, they say.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

The Creston Valley Hospital's chief of staff squashed any rumours about temporary seasonal workers spreading COVID-19 around town on Aug. 6. Aaron Hemens - Creston Valley Advance
Five active cases of COVID-19 in Creston

There has been a total of 47 cases in the community since January 2020

A new park is under development for the Lower Kootenay Band. Ken White, facility and operations manager, holds up the draft plans with Nasukin Jason Louie on the construction site. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Lower Kootenay Band develops plan for new memorial park

The new Kulilu Garden will serve as a memorial for children who died from polio and tuberculosis in the 1930s and 40s

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Grade 2 and 3 classes from a North Okanagan elementary took over Letters page of this Black Press newspaper

Most Read