Following the relaxation of some public health restrictions this week, new modeling from Ontario’s scientific table predicts that hospitalizations are likely to “rebound” and continue at a “prolonged peak.”
The most recent forecasts, which were released on Tuesday morning, employ three possible scenarios based on varied levels of immunity developed through infection to outline the way forward.
The scientists say that in a scenario of somewhat low community immunity in which only two million residents were recently infected with COVID-19, it is likely that the number of people in hospital with the virus will start to rise in mid-February and eventually approach 6,000 sometime in March, exceeding the number of beds available.
In a moderate community immunity scenario in which there is about 2.5 million Ontarians with a recent COVID-19 infection, hospitalizations will still rise but at a more gradual pace. Scientists say that in that scenario the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 would continue to hover around 3,000 until mid-February and then rise to approximately 4,500 in March, exceeding the pandemic high set just last month.
The science table says that only under “the most favourable assumption” would hospitalizations actually continue to decrease in the weeks and months ahead as restrictions are lifted.
That scenario, which would see the number of people in hospital decline to around 2,000, is based on a “high community immunity” assumption in which approximately three million people have a recent infection to provide them with increased immunity.
The science table is also projecting that the number of people in the ICU with COVID-19 by March will range from around 400 in a best case scenario to approximately 900 in a worst case scenario, which would equal the third wave peak last spring.
But it warns that there is “considerable uncertainty” to those numbers amid data suggesting that Omicron is resulting in a lower proportion of patients ending up in intensive care.
“I think it’s important to understand that it’s very difficult right now for us to estimate how many people were basically infected since December,”Dr. Peter Jüni, who is the head of the science table, told CP24 on Tuesday morning.
“If only roughly two million individuals have been infected in the last two months, we’ll start to see a rebound in our hospital occupancy patients in hospital beds with COVID, which may be significant and actually have a greater peak than we’ve seen so far.” That, in my opinion, is the worst-case situation, and hopefully we will not be there. However, we must walk carefully and monitor early indicators in the next weeks to determine what may happen later.”