Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has released its latest disease modelling, and it doesn’t look great.
Across the board, infection rates, hospitalizations and ICU admissions have stopped declining. The Science Table warned that all these numbers will begin to increase as public health measures are lifted across the province.
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Wastewater samples from 101 wastewater treatment plants show that COVID-19 in the province is increasing. According to the Science Table, daily infection rates based on wastewater samples are between 15,000 and 20,000. It is estimated that only 10% of COVID-19 cases in the province are being reported after Ontario changed its testing strategy.
The wastewater data shows that COVID-19 infection rates vary greatly by region. The incline in Toronto and the GTA is rising slower than in the central and eastern parts of the province.
As seen throughout the entire pandemic, lower-income individuals continue to have higher infection rates than any other income level in the province. This includes the most recent wave of COVID-19.
The Science Table modelling shows that hospitalizations will increase as Ontario moves forward with plans to remove masking mandates and “live with COVID-19.” Hospitalizations, with a moderate increase in transmissions, won’t reach wave five levels, but there will be an increase.
ICU admissions will see a similar rise. Again, the models reflect a moderate increase in COVID-19 transmission and do not reflect a worst-case scenario. COVID-19 ICU admissions could hit 300 patients again with a moderate spread.
The Science Table said that scenarios that would result in a moderate increase include increasing social contacts by 40%, with half of these contacts maskless, or a 30% increase in contacts with half of them maskless if the more infectious BA.2 strain becomes dominant.
The Science Table emphasized the need for third doses of COVID-19 vaccine as well as the continued use of masks. Wearing a cloth mask reduces the risk of getting COVID-19 by 56%, a medical mask by 66% and a respirator by 83%.