Cindy E. Harnett – May 17, 2022 / 8:44 am | Story: 369188
Photo: Darren Stone/Times Colonist
British Columbia Regional Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The sixth wave of COVID-19 that has spread across the county has reached its peak and is beginning to decline, according to a member of the BC COVID-19 Modeling Group.
Sally Otto, a COVID-19 modeling expert, does not use the “sixth wave” description used across Canada to describe the current number of cases arising from the Omicron BA.2 subvariable and instead refers to this period as a second Omicron wave.
“What we’re seeing – which is good news – are signs that the BA.2 wave is waning,” said Otto, an evolutionary biologist and mathematical modeler at the University of British Columbia. “It was a vision [the decline] In wastewater, we also see it in the number of cases over the age of 70,” Otto said. “We will have a report on Wednesday.”
Otto said the decline is not sharp, but there was stability last week and the growth rate since then has been negative and enough to give modelers confidence that it is on a downward trend. She said infection levels for the second omicron wave are half those of the first omicron wave in January and February, which were the highest infection numbers so far in the epidemic.
And if people have a sense that many around them have had or have recently had COVID-19, it’s because we’re regressing from sky-high levels to almost sky-high, she said.
Otto said she would not count on a summer reprieve.
“It’s not like the flu and it still has a high enough transmission rate that you can get strong waves, even in the summer season,” Otto said.
Otto said the summer weather will undoubtedly bring people to more outdoor areas, where the potential for infection is less, but “I’m not sure we can count on summer without a wave.”
Epidemiologists, modeling experts, and public health monitor a number of Omicron sub variants – Omicron BA.21 and BA.2.12.1 that are prevalent here and in the United States, and the BA.5 and BA.5 driving mutations in South Africa.
Otto emphasized that we have a good level of immunity to any variants of Omicron at the moment, but he is concerned about variants that may appear in a couple of months when the immunity provided by the third vaccines declines.
“That would put us back in a situation where the next alternative could take off,” Otto said. She said any other potentially worrisome species would have to bypass Omicron and that would be a challenge because Omicron is more of an upper respiratory virus that transmits very easily.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the county health official, in an update last week about vaccination rates for health care professionals, encouraged everyone who didn’t get a booster shot to get one now and for those feeling unwell to stay home. Henry said that because vaccination rates are rising, people who get COVID-19 now, in most cases, don’t get very sick.
Henry expects British Columbia to go into “relative ease” for a little while later, but will have to watch out for what might happen in the fall. “We need to be prepared because we’re going to see a spike in the fall,” Henry said.
“My hope and expectation is that we never have to put orders out for people to do these things like we did when we didn’t know what was going on for the last two and a half years,” Henry said, explaining. People have learned about the layers of protection they need to stay safe.
Otto said she would be reluctant to raise people’s hopes about ending restrictions if necessary again in the fall.
“I’m an optimist, too,” Otto said. “I just think we have to be prepared and anticipate that there is a possibility that we will get a uglier version that is more transmissible. I think if you tell the audience, no more restrictions, it makes them angry when he turns around.”