The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has released new disease modelling and the experts say the province is well into its sixth wave of the virus.
Earlier this month, the Science Table reported that wastewater surveillance signalled major increases in infection across the province. On April 6, the head of the Science Table said that Ontario was likely seeing more than 100,000 new daily infections. Now, wastewater surveillance is showing slower growth.
While wastewater signals may show infection rates slowing, the Science Table said it’s still too soon to tell if the rate has plateaued, if it will increase again or if it is in decline. With the Easter long weekend upon us, social gatherings could bring another increase.
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The modelling indicates that between December 1 and now, wastewater surveillance suggests 4.5 to 6 million Ontarians were infected with COVID-19.
Infection rates varied in different regions across the province, but all areas showed an increase.
While the province limited who was able to access publicly funded PCR testing, the Science Table said that it’s clear that infection rates increased alongside lifting public health measures.
The Science Table said that the BA.2 Omicron subvariant became dominant in the province on March 10. This variant appears to be more transmissible than the original Omicron variant.
While COVID-19 infections increased across the province, the Science Table’s modelling suggests that hospitalizations will remain lower than the fifth wave that took place through December and January.
A worst-case scenario could see slightly higher hospitalizations than the previous wave. The Science Table model suggests that hospitalization rates will remain similar to the fifth wave when 56% of patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized because of the virus.
Similarly, COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU are expected to remain lower than in the previous wave. Again, the Science Table’s model suggests that the majority of ICU patients with COVID-19 will be admitted due to severe outcomes of the virus.
While hospitalization and ICU admission rates appear to be slightly more promising than the previous wave, healthcare workers are getting sick at the same rate. High rates of healthcare workers are becoming infected with COVID-19, straining the hospital system, increasing burnout and affecting healthcare services.
The data shared by the Science Table only indicates healthcare workers with a positive PCR test, and it expects that the rate of infection among healthcare workers is much higher.
The Science Table also emphasized the risk of developing long COVID. Those who are unvaccinated are particularly at risk of developing long-term health issues as a result of a COVID-19 infection.
This means that COVID-19 will have long-term impacts on the healthcare system as more people grapple with the long-term effects of the virus. There are currently no treatments for long COVID.
“This will likely have an important impact on the economy, healthcare system
and society for years to come,” the model reads.
The Science Table said that more and more data is emerging showing a connection between acute infection and long-term health issues. Rates of heart failure, stroke, pulmonary embolism and other severe conditions.
The Science Table said that symptoms of the virus have changed and people should isolate if they have a headache, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, cough, fever, gastrointestinal issues or loss of smell.
Ontarians who had a third COVID-19 vaccine shot appear to be less likely to spread the virus than if they just had two. The table emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated as unvaccinated individuals are four times more likely to be hospitalized, and six times more likely to end up in the ICU.