A customer wearing a face mask waits to buy vegetables. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

A customer wearing a face mask waits to buy vegetables. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

B.C. experts predict COVID cases, hospital admissions will rise due to BA.5

Latest report from the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group says cases will rise through July

The B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group’s latest report indicates a new Omicron wave has started in B.C. and across Canada.

This latest wave is powered by the fast-spreading BA.5 variant — the latest version of Omicron with unique changes to the viral spike protein that gives the variant more immune escape than previous variants.

BA.5 is estimated to make up 80 per cent of cases in B.C. as of this week. The COVID-19 Modelling Group says that with waning immunity among vulnerable populations and increased potential for BA.5 to evade immunity, hospital admissions are expected to grow in B.C.

READ MORE: B.C. rolling out fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose in the fall

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 is no longer declining in B.C. Data released by the B.C CDC on Thursday (July 7) showed 369 people in hospital, up from 273 the week before — an increase of 35 per cent.

Many British Columbians are more than six months out from their most recent vaccine. The province recently announced that fourth doses will be available for everyone 12 and older by September and 1.3 million British Columbians still have not received a third dose. Vaccination will not prevent infection, but data shows that getting boosted can lower the risk of hospitalization by about three-fold.

People in B.C. who want a fourth dose and do not want to wait for the fall can call 1-833-838-2323 to book an appointment.

The B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group’s report states that projections about the impact of BA.5 on severe cases, hospitalizations and death are difficult given the uncertainty in population-level immunity to the new variants. The group also says that projects can be altered if protective measures are taken to curb the spread of the virus.

Fortunately, there are measures that work in decreasing COVID risk like wearing a well-fitted, good-quality mask — like CAN99, N95 or KN95 masks that are National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved. It’s also important to make sure that spaces are well-ventilated wherever possible by opening windows and doors, or using fans to circulate fresh air into a space.

READ MORE: COVID hospitalizations jump by nearly 100 as B.C. experts warn of third Omicron wave


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