Ontario health officials said that COVID-19 variants of concern could account for 40% of new daily cases in Ontario by mid-March.
On Thursday, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the co-chairman of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams provided the update.
Brown said the variants of concern continue to spread in the province, which will likely result in an increase of cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions soon.
By the second week of March, the Science Table predicts that 40% of cases will be the variants of concern.
And, Ontario’s weekly growth rate for the variants matches other countries like Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, and the UK.
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The next few weeks “are critical” to understanding the impact of the variants and there is a period of “remaining risk” before the pandemic likely recedes in the summer.
“If we are very careful we can imagine a better summer,” Brown said. “The Stay at Home order has been a powerful protection in the GTA.”
Brown said the variants must be monitored closely and for public health measures to be loosened carefully in order for a better summer to become a reality.
It was also noted that the targeted vaccinations in long-term care, in addition to lockdowns have resulted in a decrease in deaths and infections in the sector.
Hospitalizations and ICU occupants have also levelled off with there being just over 300 ICU beds occupied, but it’s “likely to remain unchallenged.”
In order to help control the pandemic, Brown said a combination of vaccination and public health measures “should help reduce transmission.”
Also with the warmer weather, and more people outside, there could be a decrease in cases seen similarly to last year.
“The major challenge becomes how to protect the health system over the next few months and closely monitor the spread of all types of cases while accelerating vaccination,” Brown said.
“We should expect flares in communities and settings where risk factors make people vulnerable.”
As of February 22, 31 regions have entered Ontario’s reopening framework with just Toronto, Peel, and North Bay Parry Sound remaining under the Stay at Home order until March 8 at the least, at the request of the local medical officers of health.
To date, Ontario has seen 297,311 COVID-19 cases and 6,916 virus-related deaths.