Ontario is “well into” the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the province’s Science Advisory Table says.
The science table released new projections on Thursday, saying the sixth wave is being driven by the “new, more transmissible BA.2 variant, waning immunity, and lifting of public health measures.”
The table said there is “significant uncertainty around the impact of case growth on our health system and deaths,” but added that wastewater surveillance suggests that community transmission of the virus “may have peaked.”
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The advisory table said the province’s wastewater signal has “increased substantially” but that growth has slowed down, adding that it “may have crested.”
“It is uncertain yet, whether the current plateau will remain or be followed by an increase after the holidays, or a decrease,” the document reads.
The new modelling indicates, though, that hospital occupancy is likely to “continue to rise for some time,” with “uncertainty in the timing and height of the peak.”
Estimates for hospital occupancy range from just over 2,500 hospitalized patients to around 4,000, possibly peaking in the middle of May.
As for ICU occupancy, the group presented a range of scenarios from around 375 people in intensive care due to the virus or close to 650 people.
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However, the advisory table said the peak will likely be lower than what was seen in the fifth wave of the pandemic.
What’s more, the science table said COVID-19 infections among the province’s health care workers are “as high as in the last Omicron wave.”
“High infection rates combined with potentially high hospitalization rates will reduce Ontario’s ability to provide care for nonCOVID-19 patients,” the table said.
The science table said masking in indoor spaces will “substantially reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19” as will “improvements to ventilation.”
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In a statement emailed to Global News, Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health said the modelling “confirms what Dr. Moore reaffirmed earlier this week.”
“Ontario has the tools and capacity to manage this wave of COVID-19 without imposing additional public health measures or reinstating a mask mandate,” she said. “Ontarians should stay up to date with their vaccines, including boosters, and speak to a health care provider about what treatment options are available.”
Hilkene said hospitalizations are “not increasing at the same rate as they were in wave five and with the additional capacity the province has added since the start of the pandemic, Ontario Health is confident in the system’s ability to manage this current wave’s impact on hospitals.”
The new modelling comes as the province reported 1,392 people are now in an Ontario hospital with COVID-19, with 177 in intensive care.
The province also reported 20 more deaths from the virus on Thursday, and three that occurred over a month ago.
A total of 4,589 new infections were also reported, however, experts have cautioned that this is likely an underrepresentation of the virus’ spread in the province, due to the stringent testing rules in Ontario.
Ontario’s top doctor confirms sixth wave is upon us
Earlier this week, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, said it’s “clear” that the province is in the sixth wave of the pandemic, which is being “driven by the BA.2 variant.”
“In the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in the per cent positivity and upward trend in wastewater surveillance and a rise in hospitalizations,” he told reporters at a press conference Monday, adding that these trends are “likely to continue for the next several weeks.”
Moore said it is “strongly recommended” that masks be worn in public spaces, that those who are sick stay home and isolate, and that people receive every COVID-19 vaccine dose available to them.
He also said the province could see up to 600 ICU admissions per day at the peak of the sixth wave of the pandemic.
“The latest modelling shows that hospital and ICU capacity will be lower than in the previous wave with Ontario trending below the best-case projections.
However, Dr. Peter Juni, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto and scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, told Global News people should exercise caution for the next few weeks.
“It’s important even if wastewater had crested — and we’re not sure whether that’s true — we need to bring this wave down,” he said. “Masking helps and being selective with contacts in crowded spaces helps as well.”
He said while it is unknown precisely how many new cases of COVID-19 the province is seeing daily, it’s safe to assume around five per cent of people are actively infected with the virus.
Juni said monitoring the situation in the province in the next few days after the Easter long weekend will be important to know if the sixth wave has truly peaked in Ontario.
-with a file from The Canadian Press
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