Ontario COVID-19 modeling projects moderate increase in infections and hospitalizations after mask mandate lifted

People line up to pick up COVID-19 antigen test kits at the Rideau Center in Ottawa on January 7, 2022. There are currently 644 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, including 199 in intensive care.PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

As COVID-19 measures are eased across the country, health experts in Canada’s most populous province predict a further rise in the number of cases, but do not expect a major blow to the health system. health.

As officials monitor the highly transmissible BA.2 Omicron subvariant, which has seen an increase in parts of Europe, new modeling released Thursday by Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table predicts a moderate increase infections and hospitalizations over the next few weeks just as federal travel restrictions ease and the province-wide mask mandate comes to an end.

Sewage data is beginning to show a slight increase in cases across the province, estimating between 15,000 and 20,000 cases per day.


COVID-19 across Ontario

sewage signal

By standardized concentration of copies of the SARS-CoV-2 gene

Incomplete data, provisional estimates

*Wastewater signal: a weighted average of standardized biomarkers

concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 gene copies in 101 wastewater

wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and sewers of 34 health facilities.

Hospital occupancy expected to increase

when public health measures are lifted

Actual hospital occupancy (ward only)

Moderate increase in transmission

No increase in transmission

Range of scenarios

took into consideration

the globe and the mail, Source: covid-19 notice

for ontario

COVID-19 across Ontario

sewage signal

By standardized concentration of copies of the SARS-CoV-2 gene

Incomplete data, provisional estimates

*Wastewater signal: a weighted average of standardized biomarkers

concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 gene copies in 101 wastewater

wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and sewers of 34 health facilities.

Hospital occupancy expected to increase

when public health measures are lifted

Actual hospital occupancy (ward only)

Moderate increase in transmission

No increase in transmission

Range of scenarios

took into consideration

the globe and the mail, Source: covid-19 notice

for ontario

Ontario-Wide COVID-19 Wastewater Treatment Signal

By standardized concentration of copies of the SARS-CoV-2 gene

Incomplete data, provisional estimates

*Wastewater signal: a weighted average of normalized SARS-CoV-2 concentrations normalized by biomarkers

copies of genes in 101 sewage treatment plants, pumping stations and sewers in the 34 public health units.

Hospital occupancy expected to increase when public health measures are lifted

Actual hospital occupancy (ward only)

Moderate increase in transmission

No increase in transmission

Range of scenarios

took into consideration

In its report, the advisory table added a caveat to its modeling, saying the impact on hospitals and ICU admissions is difficult to predict and depends on many variables, including the potential spread of BA.2 .

Deputy Scientific Director Karen Born said that while restrictions have been lifted, Ontario is not out of the woods yet and mask-wearing and proof of vaccination may be needed again.

“Mandates are something that may have to come back into play, but all of those decisions have to be data-driven and the global pandemic isn’t over,” she said in an interview. “We’re at a point where the wave has subsided, but I think the key message is to be prepared for future waves and know that masking is still a very effective intervention.”

If Ontarians increase close contacts by 40%, with half of them not wearing masks, the group predicts intensive care cases could reach around 300 by May. Overall hospitalizations are expected to rise, but not exceed 1,000 as they did in the last wave.

There are currently 644 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals, including 199 in intensive care, falling below 200 for the first time this year.

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The Quebec government said this week it has no plans to reinstate already-removed COVID-19 restrictions, and Health Minister Christian Dubé tabled a bill on Wednesday to end COVID-19 restrictions. the state of health emergency. The province, which has suffered some of the worst outbreaks in the country, lifted almost all remaining measures last week, but masking in public and indoor spaces is expected to remain until mid-April.

In Alberta, the proportion of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases involving BA.2 has increased recently. The subvariant accounted for 33% of cases from March 4 to March 10, according to a weekly update from Alberta Health Services posted on the agency’s website. The original BA.1 form of Omicron remains dominant, accounting for the rest of the cases during this period.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province is monitoring the spread of BA.2 and monitoring data from other countries, which she says is a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic 19 is not over. She said it’s not yet clear how the subvariant might affect the healthcare system.

“It’s important to remember that what we’ve seen in other countries is that even though BA.2 seems to be transmitted more efficiently, there doesn’t seem to be a higher risk of serious outcomes,” he said. said Dr Hinshaw earlier this week.

Omicron has several sublines, including BA.1, which was the most commonly reported until recently. BA.2 now accounts for a greater proportion of COVID-19 cases and, in parts of Canada, is rapidly becoming the dominant sublineage.

Dr Srinivas Murthy, who studies pandemic preparedness at the University of British Columbia, said it’s not at all surprising to see a more transmissible subline and others will likely emerge with it. the weather. But whenever a new subline or other variant is detected, it is important to determine how transmissible it is, the severity of the disease it causes, and the level of protection offered by pre-existing immunity against the vaccines and previous infection.

“We will have these small – hopefully small – wavelets or surges or whatever we want to call them,” said Dr. Murthy, who is an associate professor at UBC’s medical school. “It’s just a matter of how evasive they are to our immunity.”

Although vaccinated people are more likely to be infected with Omicron sublines, the risk of serious disease is much higher in unvaccinated people.

Dr Murthy said that although the pandemic is not over, access to vaccines, treatments and other protective measures has significantly improved the situation for many people in Canada.

“We are in a much better position than a year and a half ago, two years ago,” he said.

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said earlier this week that the province is closely monitoring the outbreak of BA.2 in other countries and expects it to represent significant numbers soon. new cases.

“We expect that to be 50 per cent of the cases we have in Ontario within a short time,” Ms. Elliott told reporters Tuesday, noting that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore believes that the province can handle this situation. variant without any further disruption to the health care system.

In response to the projections on Thursday, the Ontario Ministry of Health said hospital cases were trending down and the province had the capacity to provide patient care if they spike.

“Ontario has done much better than the best-case scenario predicted in the last modeling,” spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement. “We have continued to maintain our ability to provide care to all patients who need it and our hospitals can handle any range in these latest projections.”

With reporting by James Keller and The Canadian Press

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