Today, Ontario’s science advisory committee will announce updated COVID-19 estimates, amid growing fears about a new strain of the disease that many worry would diminish the efficacy of current vaccines.
The latest modeling data are scheduled to be presented about 11 a.m., just a few hours before a 1:30 p.m. meeting with Dr. Kieran Moore, the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The findings come as the epidemic enters its fourth wave, which has already seen Ontario’s rolling seven-day average of new infections surge from 508 to 940 in less than a month.
The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in critical care is now at 168, indicating that hospitalizations are slowly increasing.
That is a far cry from the peak of the third wave of the pandemic in April when more than 900 people were being treated for COVID-19 in the ICU at one time but the science table has suggested that the healthcare system won’t have the same capacity this time around due to worker burnout, staffing shortages and a surgical backlog that will make it difficult to suspend elective care.
“We’re having difficulty staffing the existing beds and the patients who are in ICUs at present,” Dr. Kali Barrett, who sits on the science table, told CP24 last week. “And so the concern is that if we were to see another huge surge like we saw during the third wave, it would be a lot more difficult. We wouldn’t have the same resources in terms of healthcare workers who would be available to look after those patients.”
Cases have been on the rise in Ontario for more than a month now but unlike in previous waves the hot spots have been largely located outside of the Greater Toronto Area so far.
In fact as of Monday, the Algoma Public Health Unit in Sault Ste. Marie had a weekly incidence rate that was more than eight times higher than Toronto’s on a per capita basis.
Cases are also surging in Kingston, where public health officials have tightened the limit for private indoor gatherings to just 10 people and are now recommending that residents once again avoid social gatherings altogether.
“Due in part to the high vaccinations rates in our community, we have managed to keep schools and workplaces open; however, now we must prioritize measures to stabilize cases in the region,” Dr. Piotr Oglaza, the medical officer of health for the region, said in a statement issued on Monday.
The last time the science table issued modeling, it predicted that daily case numbers will range from just under 500 to 1,000 by December, implying that we are approaching the worst-case scenario.
ICU admissions are expected to number roughly 200 by the end of December, according to the science table.
However, that modeling was made public before the Omicron variation was discovered in South Africa. Only 13 examples of the Omicron variety have been found in Ontario so far, but the number is projected to grow.