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

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A black bear tries to get at a bird feeder at a home near Williams Lake. (Laura Ulrich photo)
Managing bear attractants a top priority in B.C. for 2021: Conservation Officer Service

Garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders, compost and livestock are common attractants for bears

B.C. Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon. (B.C. Cattlemen’s Association photo)
COVID, BSE, water access and private land rights: B.C. Cattlemen’s general manager weighs in

Kevin Boon said positive aspect of pandemic is more people interested in where their food comes from

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

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

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read