Ontario’s next COVID-19 wave is likely here, says science table, citing exponential growth in most regions
Ontario has likely entered a new wave of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, the province’s science advisory table said Wednesday, citing exponential growth in most public health units.
The COVID-19 Science Advisory Table points to several key indicators that it says signal the beginning of a wave, little more than a month after the end of most public health measures, including mask mandates.
For the first time since May, test positivity is above 10 per cent, the group of experts said in a series of tweets Wednesday. Wastewater signals are rising across the province overall and within most regions, it added.
Around 80 per cent of public health units are seeing exponential growth in cases, though the group says the actual reproduction number is hard to nail down since the province moved to limit PCR testing.
4) ~80% of public health units have exponential growth in cases (Rt>1), indicating this is occurring across the province (Note, Rt is harder to interpret given limited PCR testing).
(7/17) < a href="https://t.co/XXwMWwNCU1">pic.twitter.com/XXwMWwNCU1
On top of that, Ontario is seeing its first increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since May, with the number of people admitted for the virus higher than at any time last summer.
The latest numbers tracked by the science table show that as of June 29, 605 people were hospitalized as a result of the virus. That’s an increase of 89 people from the week before.
An estimated six people per day died from the virus as of July 3, up from three the week before, the group says.
Indications of a new wave in Ontario come as several G10 countries have already seen a jump in cases driven by Omicron subvariants, including France, the UK, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland, among others.
“We may be a couple weeks behind in this rise,” the advisory group said.
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The group says current evidence does not suggest BA.5 is more severe than strains that drove previous waves or that it will lead to the level of hospitalizations seen at earlier points in the pandemic.
“However, any surge comes at a time when hospitals are already dealing with staff shortages and record wait times — this impacts all of us,” the advisory table said.
“And if BA.5 spreads widely, we may see a rise in deaths among higher risk groups such as the elderly as was observed during the previous waves.”
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The group advises anyone in a crowded indoor public setting to wear a high-quality mask and to ventilate as much as possible by opening doors and window for air flow.
Anyone over the age of 18 who hasn’t had a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should “get it now,” the group says.
Anyone age 60 or over or immunocompromised should also take their fourth dose now, it says, noting while updated vaccines targeted to newer variants might be available this fall, “it makes sense to get the vaccines you are eligible for now.”
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“You can be re-infected by BA.5 even if you have recently been infected with an earlier strain,” the group says. “Non-severe infections can still be disruptive to your life and increase long COVID risk.
Providing a clear, full picture about the state of COVID-19 has become increasingly difficult over the last several months, after the provincial government restricted lab testing and stopped publishing school-related data.
On June 11, the province also switched to weekly reporting of COVID-19 data after more than two years of daily updates.