Latest COVID wave has peaked says UBC modeller

Latest COVID wave has peaked says UBC modeller

COVID-19 cases should start to decline over the next month as the latest wave peaks, but the risk of infection is still high, says a COVID-19 disease modeller.

Data showing COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron subvariant BA.5 have peaked is good news, said Sally Otto, an evolutionary biologist at the University of British Columbia.

“But it means we’re at the peak, the risks right now are really high — near an all-time-high infection risk for British Columbia at the moment — so we should be acting accordingly,” she said.

Otto is co-editor of the COVID-19 Modelling Group, which released its latest update last week. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control released new data Thursday that confirmed BA.5 infections have peaked and aren’t growing, but there are no strong signs of decline yet, Otto said.

Judging by the reduction in people masking in public indoor areas, some people believe the pandemic is over, but it’s definitely not, said Otto.

As of Thursday, there were 331 people in hospital with COVID-19, which is still a concerning number, although down from the all-time-high of 1,038 on Jan. 31, she said.

Otto said there’s an information gap when it comes to the number of COVID infections in the community, which the modelling group estimates are under-reported by “as much as 100 fold.”

There are few places to get tested for COVID and no requirement to report positive results from rapid tests.

The COVID-19 modelling group looks to the 70 and older age group for more reliable measurements, as that demographic is more likely to test, report and receive prescriptions for COVID.

Younger age groups have a higher exposure rate, but their reported numbers of infections are the same — another indication to modellers that COVID-19 infections over the summer have been “severely under-reported.”

“I think people would be masking more if they knew more about the current situation,” Otto said.”The good news is these infection risks should be declining over the next month, but right now they’re not low.”

COVID-19 deaths are also believed to be under-reported due to the way BC is collecting statistics, said Otto. As of April 2, the death of anyone within 30 days of a positive COVID lab PCR test is recorded as a COVID death.

Meanwhile, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is defending the province’s back-to-school pandemic guidelines against calls from some parent and teacher groups for more stringent COVID-19 protocols.

The guidelines released Thursday encourage pupils and others to get vaccinated and to stay home when they are sick, while masking remains optional and is described as being a “personal or family choice.”

Henry, who called compulsory masking a “blunt tool,” said the province will monitor the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, and be ready to employ temporary measures when and if they are needed.

  • Times Colonist & Canadian Press

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