Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has released new modelling in light of the Omicron variant, and they’re calling for an “immediate circuit breaker.”
The Science Table’s modelling shows potentially uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 if public health measures aren’t put in place to reduce contacts by 50%.
On Wednesday, the province introduced new capacity limits on venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more. The new restrictions reduce the capacity of these venues by 50%. According to the Science Table modelling, this will help slow some spread but is not enough to be considered the “circuit breaker” that they say is required.
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“Any measures will help reduce, but they are not enough to curb the rapid growth of the variant,” Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the advisory group, said at a press conference on Thursday.
The Science Table is recommending several approaches to blunt the impact of the Omicron variant. This would include public health measures to reduce contacts by 50%, ramping up booster doses and ensuring physical distancing, good ventilation and properly fitted masks.
Booster doses, the Science Table said, should be focused on those who are most vulnerable to severe outcomes of COVID-19. However, vaccinations alone won’t be enough to slow the spread of Omicron.
“Increasing vaccination is not enough to slow this wave,” the Science Table modelling says.
1/10 Today’s Omicron briefing . A 5-pt plan to blunt Omicron (slide 16): (1) Cut contacts by 50%; (2) acc boosters to HCW & vulnerable; (3) masking, distancing & ventilation (4) put treatments where they are most needed; (5) act now. #COVID19ON https://t.co/Gyqw5lzmNR
— COVIDScienceOntario (@COVIDSciOntario) December 16, 2021
On Wednesday, Daily Hive spoke with the head of Ontario’s Science Table about what the future of Omicron could look like in the province. Dr. Peter Juni said that reducing contacts should be a top priority.
Omicron cases are doubling every 2.2 days. As the modelling shows, and as Dr. Juni said on Wednesday, daily cases could exceed 10,000 very soon if public health measures aren’t introduced.
“It could be the worst wave of the pandemic yet,” Brown concurred on Thursday.
While there have been some reports that the Omicron variant is milder than previous variants, the risk of overwhelming hospitals and ICUs is still great. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the province have been steadily rising since December 1.
While the modelling shows that hospitalizations and ICU admissions are currently below previous waves, it could still put a strain on the province’s hospital system. Many Ontario hospitals are facing staffing shortages. The Science Table said that as a result of these shortages, ICUs can not handle another surge of patients like those seen in previous waves.
The modelling shows that a steep rise in Omicron variant cases in South Africa was followed by a rise in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and in-hospital deaths. This could indicate what is to come in Ontario.
Additional data from Denmark indicates that hospitalizations from the Omicron variant is the same as other variants. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths have been on the rise in European countries, which the Science Table says emphasizes the potential risk in Ontario.
The Science Table modelling indicates that ICU admissions will rise even with a circuit breaker and even if Omicron is 25% less severe. The model predicts that ICU admissions could hit more than 300 by the end of December even with additional measures and less severe disease. With no additional public health measures, this number could climb to 500.
If Omicron is as severe as previous variants, those numbers rise even more. With a circuit breaker, ICU admissions could hit between 300 and 400 by the end of December. Without a circuit breaker that number rises to more than 600.