“We’re all a little discouraged to see another variant, but it was going to be a matter of time,” says RVH doctor
Rising COVID-19 transmission rates in Simcoe-Muskoka, coupled with the threat of the omicron variant, are putting the local health care system on alert.
“We have a pretty high increase in transmission,” Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe-Muskoka medical officer of health, said at a press conference Wednesday. âHospitalizations have increased a bit, not a lot, so far. But we have to watch this very closely.
âBut it’s dragging on. You’re going to see transmission in cases manifest before you see an increase in hospitalizations, âhe added.
Gardner said he is reaching out to hospitals in the area more frequently to ask questions not only about the numbers but also about the issues they are facing to get a better idea of ââthe severity or level of patients’ illness.
Of the 610 current active cases in Simcoe-Muskoka, 33 are hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 25 a week ago, including six in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Garder pointed out that in previous waves, the number of local cases was lower than the provincial average.
But that has since changed.
In Simcoe-Muskoka, the incidence of COVID-19 is 82.5 cases per 100,000 people per week, up from 69 the week before. In contrast, the provincial rate is 37 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, against 31 a week ago.
âI’m more and more concerned about where things are going and where we’re headed,â Gardner said.
Dr Chris Martin, chief medical director of intensive care at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Center (RVH) in Barrie, said there had been no ‘increase’ in the number of patients with COVID-19, but that there had been a gradual increase.
Currently, there are 10 COVID-19 patients considered active at Barrie hospital and eight others considered resolved but who remain in hospital. Of the 10, three are in intensive care, two of whom are on ventilators.
Martin credits the region’s high vaccination rates for helping to limit the number of hospitalizations.
He said the delta variant and the fourth wave of predominantly unvaccinated patients lead to worse illnesses than at the start of the pandemic.
In previous waves, the death rate for COVID-19 patients in intensive care was around 40%. Now with the delta strain it has gone down to 60 percent.
“The survival rate is much lower than it was in the second or third wave,” he said. âNow we’re sort of waiting to see the data on the omicron variant to see how it compares to deltaâ on its transmission and disease level.
âWe’re all a little discouraged to see another variation, but it was going to be a matter of time. “
With the specter of the omicron on the horizon, Martin says there is continued focus on adhering to prevention guidelines, including masks and social distancing, as well as promoting immunizations and reminders for those who are eligible.
It is expected that the same treatment will be used as with the delta variant. The data will show whether this will require a change in approach or drug, he said.
Before the pandemic, the RVH had a 16-bed intensive care unit, but with its expansion, it has seen up to 22 patients. The hospital has also built a field hospital on the parking lot, which serves as a buffer for the area.
Meanwhile, Gardner pointed out that this was the sixth consecutive week that the local number of cases has exceeded the provincial average.
Huntsville and Wasaga Beach had the highest incidence of cases during the week of November 21, with 160 cases per 100,000 people per week, followed by Barrie with 130 cases, up from 125 cases per 100,000 people the week before.
âBarrie has seen an increase in incidents over the past six weeks, up from 25 cases per 100,000 population the week of October 10,â Gardner said.