The COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) are currently driving the third wave in the province, while hospitals are seeing younger Ontarians being admitted to the ICU, the latest modelling documents show on Thursday.
Ontario health officials presented the documents which said the risk of ICU admission is two times higher while the risk of death is 1.5 times higher in regards to the VOC which originated in the U.K. (B.1.1.7).
The press conference held by Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, co-chair for the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table comes on the heels of doctors and experts warning of an increase of hospital admissions, especially in younger Ontarians.
“We are in the third wave of the pandemic. As the new variants spread, you’ll see COVID is killing faster and younger. It’s spreading far more quickly than it was before and we cannot vaccinate quickly enough to break this third wave,” Brown said.
Cases are up and test positivity is up above the red-control line in most public health units, the documents said.
Ontario reported 2,557 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the eighth straight day cases were above 2,000.
Brown added full families are now being admitted and due to some hospitals being overwhelmed, some members have to be separated and taken to different hospitals.
Health officials also warned the increase of ICU admissions due to COVID is threatening hospitals ability to care for patients with other concerns, including “regular ICU admissions.”
According to the documents, as of March 25, there is a 245,367 surgical-case backlog due to the pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce later in the day a four-week provincewide shutdown due to the rising cases and ICU admissions which are on the verge of overwhelming the hospitals.
Brown said we are not vaccinating fast enough to keep up with the variants of concern and the documents highlight that essential workers are “bearing the brunt of the pandemic.”
“Vaccination and control of workplace outbreaks will be critical,” the documents said.
“We are not vaccinating more in the highest risk communities,” Brown highlighted.
While doctors don’t usually offer public health advice Brown said, he flagged two “simple” things people can do.
“Take it outside – see your friends and family outside, stay two metres outside and if you have to be closer wear a mask,” Brown said. “Get vaccinated. When you’re eligible, please do not put that off.”
The documents said the lockdown will help to “control the surge, protect access to care, and increase the chance of the summer Ontarians want.”
Importance of schools remaining open
“Schools disruptions have a significant and highly inequitable impact on students, parents and society. Further disruptions should be minimized,” the document said.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed Thursday that schools will remain open for in-person learning. He also confirmed the planned April break (the postponed March break) will also go ahead as planned.
“If we’re putting a priority on student achievements, student mental health, and students’ future, schools should be the last to close and the first to open in any public measure,” Brown said. “It starts to reflect schooling as a form of essential work.”
In the last 14 days, the province indicates there are 2,057 cases reported among students, 424 cases among staff and six individuals were not identified — totaling 2,487 cases.
The COVID-19 cases are currently from 1,240 out of 4,828 schools in the province which is 25 per cent of schools. Sixty-three schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.
—With files from Gabby Rodrigues