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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service to begin public consultation late June, early July

Community input, chief constable says, ‘will occur’

Surrey RCMP reunited three stolen puppies with their mom. (RCMP handout)
Puppies stolen from South Surrey home located, reunited with mom

Surrey RCMP said they found the stolen puppies on April 16

Welcome to your park sign marks the spot where 84th Avenue will continue east from King George Boulevard 
to 140th Street as part of a $13 million road project. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Road Rage: Opposition mounts anew to Surrey’s plan for 84 Ave. at south end of Bear Creek Park

Same place, same project, same fight as Surrey prepares once again to connect 84th Avenue between King George and 140th Street in Newton

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

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

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

John Wekking, Merritt Road Report - Facebook
 Coquihalla Road Report
Wildfire sparks off Coquihalla in Merritt

The wildfire is located near the Dollarama off of Highway 5

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read