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

Comox Strathcona Waste Management expects to go to tender this summer for the regional organics compost facility in Campbell River. File photo/Black Press
Comox Strathcona compost site should go to tender this summer

The regional organics facility is on target to open for the fall of 2022

WestJet in flight. Black Press file photo
Two COVID exposures on WestJet flight into Comox

The BC Centre for Disease Control has posted advisories for two separate… Continue reading

Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Busy day for Campbell River fire crews

Three incidents in rapid succession keep crews on their toes

New electric buses are coming to school districts. (Submitted photo)
New electric school buses will drive North Island forward

Travel on electric school buses is smoother, quieter, and healthier than traditional diesel buses

Destroyed window at Ministry of Social Development offices in Campbell River. Photo supplied by Campbell River RCMP
Police investigating arson in downtown Campbell River

Fire set at BC Employment and Assistance Office

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read