Second wave killing fewer Canadians but is no reason to let down guard, doctors warn

Second wave killing fewer Canadians but is no reason to let down guard, doctors warn

National data show April, May and June recorded 60 per cent of the total cases in Canada thus far

OTTAWA — Seven months into the pandemic, medical experts have a better idea of how to treat COVID-19 and how to keep it out of high-risk settings which means there are far fewer people dying of the virus now than there were in the spring.

But doctors and politicians are frantically warning that if the case numbers in Canada keep soaring as they have been in recent weeks, that may not be the case for much longer.

Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, says the second wave of the pandemic in Canada is largely being spread among younger, healthier populations than it was in the spring, when long-term care homes were hit hardest.

In Ontario, at the end of April, 45 per cent of all cases were being diagnosed in people over the age of 60, while people under 40 accounted for less than 25 per cent.

On Sept. 29, people 60 and older made up 11 per cent of new cases, while those under 40 accounted for 62 per cent.

When you couple that with the expanded knowledge about how to treat this virus, it means more people are able to ride out the disease out of hospital, and fewer people are dying.

National data show April, May and June recorded 60 per cent of the total cases in Canada thus far, but 91 per cent of the deaths. The next three months accounted for 34 per cent of total cases, and just eight per cent of all deaths.

But Oughton says that low-risk is not no risk and that, as numbers soar even in younger populations, the number of people who will get very sick and die will also start to go up.

He also says the other risk is that the more the virus spreads in the community, the harder it will be to keep it out of seniors’ residences, and long-term care homes where the impact can be devastating.

“What’s going to happen almost inevitably, as you have more and more spread in the community, it’s going to find more vulnerable groups to spread to,” he said.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday the knowledge learned in the first wave about treatments and public health protections is helping in the second wave, as has the more reliable supply of personal protective equipment.

But none of that is going to help if hospitals fill up to capacity because the system can only be stretched so far.

“At the end of the day, we still can’t see these rises in cases increase exponentially,” said Hajdu.

The average daily cases nationally went from the low 400s at the end of August, to more than 1,700 on Friday, with Ontario and Quebec accounting for more than 80 per cent of them.

While hospitalizations are still far below what they were seven months ago, they are growing. In Ontario and Quebec. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has tripled, and the number in intensive care more than doubled.

In British Columbia hospitalizations quadrupled in September.

Officials with Ottawa Public Health, which recorded its single highest daily total of 142 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, are pleading with people to only have close contact with people they live with.

“Our health care system is in crisis,” the agency tweeted, noting labs are beyond capacity, contact tracing is behind, hospitals are nearing capacity and more long-term care homes have outbreaks.

“Our system can’t handle much more of this,” it said.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the expanded knowledge of the virus and what public health measures are working, will allow governments to be more specific when they impose measures to try and slow the spread. Quebec, for example, is targeting new restrictions on public activities to hotly affected cities like Montreal and Quebec, and leaving much of the province as before.

Ontario put new restrictions Friday on restaurants, banquet halls and gyms only in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel region, where the majority of that province’s cases are being tallied.

Hajdu said there is no easy guideline for governments to follow when new restrictions have to be imposed but, if Canadians want to avoid full lockdowns, it’s critical that they make good decisions about socialization.

“This is a fine-tuned balance between making sure we can have some semblance of a normal economy and a normal life and also protect our health care system and the health of Canadians,” she said. “We are continuously working at that”

Oughton says there is another nasty outcome coming if we can’t get this second wave under control. People who aren’t dying of COVID-19 are still going to be getting cancer and having heart attacks and getting into accidents. If the health care system is overloaded with COVID-19 patients, it will lead to a higher mortality rate in other serious illnesses as well.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

Most Read