OTTAWA – COVID UODATE – Despite a widespread perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, experts from CoVaRR-Net have found that COVID-19 cases and related hospital occupancies have remained at a high, steady level in Canada over the past eight months. This fact has serious implications for Canadians, the healthcare system, and the economy.
Dr. Sally Otto, Co-Lead of CoVaRR-Net’s CAMEO Pillar and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, said, “Unfortunately, COVID-19 has hovered at a steady level since the early fall of 2022, rather than declining, even though immunity in the Canadian population is high.”
Dr. Fiona Brinkman, Deputy of CoVaRR-Net’s CAMEO Pillar and Distinguished Professor in Bioinformatics and Genomics at Simon Fraser University, added that the high level of COVID-19 cases in the population impacts rates of hospitalizations, long COVID development, and absenteeism in workplaces, collectively impacting both healthcare and the economy.
Dr. Otto predicts a minor uptick in COVID-19 cases this spring, driven by the XBB.1.5 strain, which is currently the major strain. With the spread of recent immune-evasive variants, COVID-19 case levels remain consistently higher than desired, and some people are getting re-infected three or four times a year.
To curb case levels, CoVaRR-Net experts suggest increasing the current vaccination rate in Canada and improving ventilation in crowded indoor settings. “If Canadians doubled the rate at which they are getting vaccinated, the level of COVID-19 cases would decline by about 40%. Our modelling shows that if half of crowded environments improved ventilation, cases in Canada would also drop by 40%,” said Dr. Otto.