Even as some provinces have reported record-high daily COVID-19 case counts, health experts are warning the real infection rate is likely much higher, pointing out that data has been clouded by holiday delays and with hospitals and testing centres reaching their limits.
After taking the holiday weekend off, a number of provincial and territorial governments are set to resume their COVID updates Wednesday.
Tuesday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube announced some health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to stay on the job. He said the move is necessary to keep the health-care system operational, and the decision would be made on a case-by-case basis under certain conditions.
Quebec reported 12,833 new cases and 702 hospitalizations, with 15 more deaths linked to the virus.
“What we are trying to avoid above all … is overwhelming the health network,” Dube said in French.
“We’re stuck in a vise where hospitalizations are increasing and more and more health workers have to take time off. In other words, we have more and more sick people and less and less people left to take care of them.”
Manitoba and Ontario have said they are considering similar measures to avoid overwhelming their own health systems. Manitoba reported 825 new cases and five deaths yesterday, while Ontario reported 8,825 new infections.
Ontario also announced that beginning on Thursday, long-term care homes won’t accept general visitors or allow residents to leave for social reasons in order to avoid exposure to the virus.
Alberta’s chief medical health officer said the province recorded 8,250 cases between Dec. 23 and 28. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said hospitalizations remain “relatively stable” but noted it’s still too soon to know if Omicron will stress the health system.
“Yesterday, as you heard, we had approximately 1,400 new cases identified out of 6,500 tests. Our positivity rate over the past five days has ranged from around 17 per cent to 22 per cent,” Hinshaw said Tuesday.
“We will likely see hospitalizations rise in the coming weeks due to the exponential growth of the Omicron variant in our province.
“Well, it seems from other countries that have had more time Omicron that there is a reduction in severity. The degree to which this happens is not yet clear.”
The top doctor said even if the latest variant causes a lower risk of serious illness for someone, there could still be a significant impact on Alberta’s hospital system due to the substantial rise in cases.
“The problem is we simply don’t know and our opportunity to slow case growth is right now.”
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported a record-breaking single-day count of 194 new infections. Nova Scotia confirmed 561 new cases, while New Brunswick reported 306 new cases.
British Columbia health officials announced 1,785 new cases, although they warned the data is preliminary.
–– With files from Global News