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Up to 120,000 daily COVID-19 cases in Ontario, science table director says

Dr. Peter Jüni. Global News

The director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says the province is seeing around north of 100,000 new COVID-19 cases every day.

The estimate is based on data from wastewater surveillance.

Dr. Peter Jüni, who is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto, said the data suggested Ontario’s caseload was similar to the peak of the Omicron wave.

“Based on what we’re seeing right now, with today’s analysis showing that we reached the levels (of) the last Omicron peak in wastewater, we need to assume … we have roughly 100,000 to 120,000 infections per day,” he told Global News.

He estimated Ontario was reporting “five per cent or even less” of its actual case count.

Read more: Departing Ontario COVID-19 adviser reflects on life away from the public eye

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Ontario’s Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, said Tuesday there was no need to reimpose the provincial mask mandates as cases continued to climb.

“It’s not unanticipated that this would happen,” she said.

Jüni attributed the rising case count “mainly to us changing our behaviour.” He said the new variant of COVID-19, BA.2, likely made up just over 50 per cent of cases.

The scientific director said the change was like “seeing a lightswitch” being flicked.

Ontario reported 3,444 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

That figure, experts say, is likely an underestimate of the true number of cases due to testing restrictions that limit access to PCR tests in the province. Those who are still eligible for PCR testing include high-risk people and those that work in high-risk settings.

“It’s very difficult to tell when we will reach the peak,” Jüni said. He said the province’s vaccine rollout combined with immunity from the Omicron wave could impact how quickly cases climb.

Read more: COVID-19 in the classroom: Concerns linger as Ontario schools weather sixth wave

The president and CEO of the University Hospital Network (UHN) said Wednesday hospitals faced a staffing challenge as a result of staff absences during the sixth wave.

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In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Kevin Smith said the UHN is “truly seeing a lot more cases of COVID” the past few days.

“So much so that staffing is challenging once again,” he wrote. “Our (inpatient) admissions have also gone up from 6 last week to 30 today.”

Jüni said the shift in people’s behaviour once again puts hospitals at risk.

“We will be much higher than our projections because behavior has changed so dramatically and we could be again in the same ballpark of of hospital occupancy … as last time during the first Omicron wave,” he said.

— with files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca and Hannah Jackson

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