Even as hospitalizations and case counts continue to decline, Ontario’s mortality toll from COVID-19 has hit a new high.
On Friday, the Ministry of Health announced additional 52 deaths, bringing the total number of people killed by the virus to above 12,000 for the first time. Two of the fatalities occurred more than a month ago and were added to the total due to data cleansing.
More than 1,800 deaths have been documented so far in 2022, making the last six weeks among the deadliest in the pandemic’s nearly two-year lifespan.
The good news is that other indicators continue to improve with most public health officials now agreeing that the worst of this wave of the pandemic is likely behind us.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has also indicated that he will provide the Ford government with recommendations next week that could see additional public health measures “eased” or lifted.
“I don’t think it would be wise to lift everything all at once and say OK we are done with this, the pandemic is over. That is not the case and I don’t think that would serve the population well. But you can have a gradual lifting of public health measures as the current burden of COVID dictates and I think that is what we will see,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 on Friday morning. “Remember these are temporary. I know we have had them and they have been lifted and we have had them and then they have been lifted again while masks have been on for a long, long time but these aren’t supposed to be forever and I hope people recognize that.”
According to the latest data there are now 1,829 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, down from 2,634 at this time last week and a peak of nearly 4,200 on Jan. 18. Of those hospitalized, 435 are receiving treatment in intensive care, a marked decline from last week when 517 individuals required that level of care.
The ministry is also reporting another 2,907 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours with a positivity rate of 11.7 per cent. That number is a significant undercount due to limited access to PCR testing but is down significantly from one week prior when 4,047 new cases were reported.
Meanwhile, outbreaks in the handful of sectors with widespread access to PCR testing continue to decrease.
As of Thursday there were 222 active outbreaks in long-term care homes, another 120 in retirement homes and 97 in hospitals. At this time last week there were 311 active outbreaks in long-term care homes, 204 in retirement homes and 172 in hospitals.
Bogoch told CP24 earlier in the day that the data show Ontario is “heading in the right path” as it goes beyond the pandemic’s Omicron-fueled fourth wave.
“It’s fair to argue that if things keep going in the right way, doing this (lift limitations) shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Residents of long-term care homes were involved in 15 of the new deaths recorded on Friday. Long-term care homes have been responsible for more than a third of Ontario’s deaths during the pandemic, with 4,414 residents and 10 staff members dying.