COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and confirmed case counts across Canada are relatively stable after an early summer wave, but they remain far higher than past years, data shows.
As of Wednesday, Canada is seeing an average of 3,475 lab-confirmed cases and 44 deaths per day, according to provincial and territorial data compiled by Global News. Currently, 5,158 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 305 patients who are in intensive care.
While those numbers are down slightly from the brief wave of infections in June and July, they remain far higher than the rates seen during the summers of 2020 and 2021.
In past years, there was an average of roughly 350 patients in hospital per day during the summer months. Even as hospitalizations climbed in August 2021 and into September of that year, they peaked at half the current rate.
The current death rate has also vastly eclipsed past summers, when the average number of deaths per day was in the single digits.
Previous evidence pointed to the summer months as predictable lulls in the pandemic, as people spend more time in outdoor spaces where there is less transmission of the virus.
But the more infectious Omicron variant upended that thinking, and further mutations — including the current BA.5 subvariant and its predecessor, BA.2 — have led to more waves of infections this year than in the past.
‘We cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week’: WHO warns on rise in COVID fatalities
The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that BA.5’s dominance has led to a 35 per cent increase in reported COVID-10-related deaths globally over the past four weeks.
In the last week alone, 15,000 people died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“There is a lot of talk about learning to live with this virus, but we cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week. We cannot live with mounting hospitalizations and deaths,” he said at a press conference.
“We cannot live with inequitable access to vaccines and other tools. Learning to live with COVID-19 does not mean we pretend it’s not there. It means we use the tools we have to protect ourselves and protect others.”
COVID guidelines for fall: Expert urges Canadians to look out for flu as well
Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has said the country is in a period of pandemic transition that will likely lead to further waves this year, warning back in June that COVID-19 “has not left the stage.”
Public health officials have shifted their focus toward a potential serious wave in the fall and winter. Planning is underway to provide vaccine booster doses to all adults that request one, while ensuring vulnerable populations receive an extra dose.
Experts say the boosters are important, as current vaccines do not sufficiently protect against Omicron and its subvariants, allowing for “breakthrough cases” and even reinfections among vaccinated people.
“However, there is evidence that if you have the vaccine, more than likely you don’t end up in the hospital,” said Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious disease researcher and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.
“People (infected with COVID-19) will say, ‘It’s just kind of a flu, that’s okay, I’ll stay home.’ That is the result of the vaccines.”
Expert says Canada can expect a spike in COVID-19 variants cases during fall and winter
The Public Health Agency of Canada notes that between June 6 and July 3 of this year, unvaccinated cases were three times more likely to be hospitalized and four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated cases.
Tedros urged everyone who has access to a booster dose to get one, and to continue to wear masks when it is impossible to keep distance from others.
As of Monday, 86.1 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, while 82.4 per cent have received at least two doses. Yet just under half — 49.7 per cent — have gotten at least one more booster dose.
Despite hospitalizations nationally remaining relatively stable, signs are emerging that more patients are being admitted with symptoms.
Hospitalizations are on the rise in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, according to the most recent updates. Most provinces besides Quebec have shifted to reporting data weekly, while Saskatchewan is due to release its first monthly report on Thursday.
To date, provinces and territories have confirmed more than 4,125,000 cases of COVID-19 including 43,471 deaths.
— With files from Rachel Gilmore
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