As Ontario’s COVID-19 cases and test positivity have noticeably dropped in recent days, the province’s latest modelling data suggests the Delta variant could be the dominant strain over the summer and vaccinating high-risk communities will be key to avoiding a fourth wave of the virus.
“These drops in cases and other indicators should continue to decline for at least 10 days and potentially for the summer. As vaccination continues, it will be important to monitor carefully for new variants and to continue assessing for signs of breakthrough infections, those are infections in people who have already vaccinated, and serious infections that result in hospitalization or other negative outcomes,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said in a presentation Thursday afternoon.
“The Delta variant is more transmissible and may be more dangerous. It will likely be the dominant form of the virus this summer. It is critical to control the spread of this variant.”
According to the presentation by the advisory body, getting the second COVID-19 vaccine dose is more than twice as effective against the Delta variant. Officials said the Delta variant, the strain first detected in India, is about 50 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant (the strain first detected in the United Kingdom).
Brown encouraged residents to keep following public health advice despite recent progress, adding the rise of Delta variant cases is “not a doomsday scenario” if control measures continue
“It’s our choice to get vaccinated. It’s our choice to get tested if we’re sick. It’s our choice to follow the remaining public health measures like wearing a mask indoors,” he said.
“It’s the combination of vaccination, strong public health capacity, and these choices we make that will be our key to a good summer and maintaining progress throughout the fall.”
When it comes to Ontario’s vaccination strategy and combatting the rise of the Delta variant, the experts recommended officials ensure all regions in Ontario have access to first doses to ensure there aren’t pockets with low vaccines.
The data released by the Ontario government shows the province has now surpassed both the U.S. and U.K. when it comes to the percentage of the population who have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The province has now also matched or outpaced Israel in terms of first dose vaccination rates.
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In all, 73 per cent of adults in the province have had one shot, while 11 per cent are fully vaccinated. Almost 12 million arms have been jabbed, data show.
Among priority groups, almost every resident of long-term care homes has been double dosed. Overall, those aged 70 and up are well above 90 per cent in terms of first doses. At the other end, almost 40 per cent of youths aged 12 to 17 have had one shot.
The advisory body also reported intensive care unit admissions and hospitalizations have dropped sharply since the end of April where around 900 people were in ICUs. More recently that number dropped below 500, beginning to free up capacity to resume procedures impacted by record-high hospital admissions.
If the province can continue controlling COVID-19, officials said normal hospital operations can resume in mid-July assuming the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs is below 200.
Officials also noted COVID-19 testing has declined in recent days. While the province was experiencing a surge in cases and hospitalizations in mid-April, nearly 350 tests were being conducted for every 100,000 people. Fast-forward to early June and that number dropped to 172 tests per 100,000 people. The experts stressed strong monitoring will be “critical” in controlling the pandemic.
— With files from the Canadian Press