Kitchener-Waterloo

Hospitalizations top 100 in Waterloo region, medical officer urges people to get vaccinated

People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are at a higher risk of hospitalization and ICU admission, Region of Waterloo's medical officer of health says. Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang urges people to get their three doses, as area hospitals have seen 107 people with the virus.

Children can go to Boardwalk clinic in Waterloo to get first dose of vaccine

There were 107 people with COVID-19 in Waterloo region's three Ontario hospitals as of Tuesday's update from public health. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

There were 107 people with COVID-19 in Waterloo region's three hospitals on Tuesday, the Ontario region's public health unit reported.

Fourteen people were in the intensive care unit. The region noted ICU patients may no longer be infectious, but require ongoing care.

Hospitals in Waterloo region and Guelph "are near or past capacity," said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener and the Waterloo-Wellington hospital regional lead for the COVID-19 response. 

In an update on Tuesday, Fairclough noted that a quarter of patients in hospital care are under the age of 60 "and many  are unvaccinated."

As well, she noted more than 500 staff across the hospitals have been impacted by COVID and cannot work.

"This is impacting our ability to provide care," Fairclough said.

This chart provided Tuesday shows the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Waterloo region's three hospitals and Guelph General Hospital. (Waterloo Wellington COVID Report)
This graph from the Waterloo Wellington COVID Report shows the age groups of people in hospital and their vaccination status: red is unvaccinated, yellow is partially vaccinated and blue are people with two or more doses. (Waterloo Wellington COVID Report)

"Omicron demands that [we] use every measure that we can to protect everyone," she said in the release, asking people to get vaccinated, wear a high-quality mask, stay home if sick and reduce social contacts.

"We are at a very critical point right now and our actions today and over the next few weeks will make all the difference in our ability to get through this together," she said.

60 outbreaks

One new death, a woman in her 50s, was reported, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths in the region to 320.

There were 487 new cases reported Tuesday, considered to be lower than the actual number of cases because not everyone is eligible for COVID-19 testing.

In the region, there were 60, 31 of them in long-term care and retirement homes.

The region is no longer reporting outbreaks in workplaces, facilities, child care settings, post-secondary institutions or schools.

Get vaccinated, Wang urges

People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are at a higher risk of hospitalization and ICU admission than those who have received even two doses, said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Region of Waterloo's medical officer of health.

"A booster or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine further protects against severe complications of Omicron," a prevalent COVID-19 variant, Wang said Tuesday while presenting a chart from the Ontario Science Table to regional councillors during a committee of the whole meeting.

Water region's medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, second from top on right side, gave a COVID-19 update to regional councillors Tuesday during a committee of the whole meeting. This slide from the Ontario Science Table shows the impact vaccines have had on cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions. (Region of Waterloo/YouTube)

Being vaccinated guards against severe outcomes from the virus, Wang said, reminding people to get whichever mRNA vaccine is available to them first, whether it's Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

As when second vaccine doses were first available, there are reports of people walking away from the Moderna vaccine as a third dose. But Wang said Moderna is "safe and highly effective."

"There is emerging evidence in fact that Moderna induces somewhat higher antibody levels and its protection may be a little bit more durable than Pfizer's as well," she said.

Wang said vaccination helps prevent severe outcomes and ease the burden on the health-care system, which she said is "under tremendous strain" because the number of patients and workers having to take a leave of absence have risen "sharply."

Thousands of appointments available

Vickie Murray, the region's lead on the vaccine rollout, told councillors more than 29,000 appointments available this month for people in the community, for first, second or third doses. Murray said it's due to a collaborative effort by the region, pharmacists and local physicians' offices to meet demand over the past month.

"We couldn't get appointments out there fast enough in December and so we really worked hard to add more appointments," she said, noting the Pinebush clinic in Cambridge added 6,000 appointments this week.

"We're finally getting ahead, and really glad to have more appointments available quicker for people."

Murray encouraged people with third-dose appointments booked later in the month or in February to rebook for an earlier appointment.

She also noted pregnant women can walk into any regional vaccine clinic to get a dose of the vaccine, and children five to 11 years old can go into clinic at The Boardwalk in Waterloo to get their first dose. Murray said it's hoped the region will be able to provide walk-in doses for children at other clinics in the coming weeks.

The region's vaccination dashboard showed 76.74 per cent of all residents in the community have two vaccine doses.

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