Doctors say more people are getting infected, so more people will be hospitalized and potentially die
Original author: CBC News
Published: January 30, 2022
The pace of deaths has accelerated this month across the province as the Omicron variant wave of COVID-19 has washed over the province, including in the southwestern region.
Since Jan. 1, 48 deaths have been reported in Windsor-Essex, Sarnia-Lambton has had 23 people die due to COVID-19 and although Chatham-Kent's number is lowest — at 20 reported deaths — the region also has the smallest population of the three regions. The deaths in Chatham-Kent account for 43 per cent of its total for the entire pandemic.
But doctors say this does not mean this variant is more deadly.
"We are dealing with a large number of people that are infected that are of advanced age, almost all of them with comorbidity problems. Of course, there's going to be mortality in this area," said Dr. David Colby, medical officer of health for Chatham-Kent, during a media briefing Thursday.
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"We predicted that this was going to happen, and it's coming to pass. The script is rolling out exactly as we said it would."
The high number of outbreaks at Chatham-Kent's long-term care and retirement homes — 11 as of Thursday — are "very large" said Colby. But the number of people who have died is actually few than when compared to other outbreaks of similar size earlier on in this pandemic.
"So it's really a question of proportion," said Colby. "I have never said this wave is mild. But the proportion of people that have done badly may be lower, lower than Delta especially."
It's been the third-deadliest month of the pandemic for Windsor-Essex, with several days still to go. The acting medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) echoed what Colby said for his region.
"Since Omicron is more infectious and there are more people are infected, then it only follows that more people are hospitalized and a greater proportion of people will die," Dr. Nesathurai said during a media briefing Thursday.
"We also do know it's still a great risk for individuals who are unvaccinated, but also individuals who are older in age as well as individuals who have other chronic health conditions," said WECHU CEO Nicole Dupuis. "We have done a lot of work over the course of the pandemic so that we do prioritize and focus on protecting those individuals."
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Province-wide, dozens of deaths are being reported each day from COVID-19, and the Omicron variant that is currently the dominant strain.
Dr. Fahad Razak, an epidemiologist and internist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, is part of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. He said this variant is causing more damage in some ways than previous waves.
"Even though Omicron is somewhat milder, I don't want to say that it's mild, because it certainly isn't. The hospitals are being filled with people with Omicron. It is infecting a lot more people, so it's a numbers game," he said.
"Individual risk for one person might be slightly lower, but more people are getting sick."
More people have been admitted to hospital this wave across Ontario than before, said Razak, adding that data does show the unvaccinated have a greater risk of going to hospital.
"Right now, if you're vaccinated, the chance you'll end up in hospital is reduced by 80 per cent and chances you'll end up in ICU is reduced by 90 per cent," he said.
"There are also people who are vaccinated who are getting sick but often they have other underlying health issues that leave them more susceptible."