Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has released its latest round of pandemic modelling ahead of an expected province-wide lockdown announcement Thursday.
With the latest projections the table says the third wave has arrived and it is being driven by the rise of more infectious variants of concern (VOCs).
The modelling data shows that in the short-term, cases are entirely dependent on public health measures and vaccinations.
The findings suggest a stay-at-home order is necessary to control the surge and will increase the chances of a somewhat normal summer.
Every region of the province will be placed in the ‘Grey-Lockdown’ zone starting Saturday, which would still be well short of the restrictions that were in place during the stay-at-home order during the second wave.
In the best-case scenario, with a stay-at-home order in effect for April and vaccinations administered at a constant rate, cases will peak at around 3,000 a day in mid-April and then drop back to below 2,000 a day by the end of the month.
Under the worst-case projections, with no intervention, the modelling predicts nearly 12,000 cases a day for the province by the end of April.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the group, said short-term case projections will depend entirely on the public health measures implemented by the government and vaccination rates.
“I think if you’re unable to get that level of impact, you’re not going to see the same reduction in cases, you’re not going to see the same control over ICU admissions,” Brown said.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the key to controlling the spread of the virus will be to limit mobility, especially between regions.
“People moving around from areas of high levels of community transmission, to lower levels …. they also spread variants of concern,” he said.
“Our big concern with our recommendations (is) … how do you decrease and limit that kind of mobility so that people will stay home, stay locally?”
The data shows that cases are consistently up in nearly every public health unit across the province.
Younger people are now ending up in the hospital and in ICU beds. The modelling shows the risk of ICU admission is two times higher and the risk of death is 1.5 times higher for the B.1.1.7 variant.
The virus is threatening the health care system’s ability to care for all patients and to effectively deal with regular ICU admissions.
COVID-related ICU patients have now reached the highest point since the onset of the pandemic last March.
The table says that the vaccination rollout has not successfully reached communities that are at the highest risk which has delayed the impact that vaccine could have at tempering the severity of the third wave.
Brown also said that 40 percent of Ontario residents aged 75-79 and 72 percent of those aged 70-74 still have not received their first dose of the vaccine.
“We are expanding first dose coverage, but it remains incomplete,” Brown said.
“The spread of variants threatens the province’s health system’s ability to deal with regular intensive care admissions and care for all patients.”
Brown said variants of concern are now the dominant strain of the virus in the province.
“Younger Ontarians are ending up in hospital and risk of ICU admission is two times higher and the risk of death is one and a half times higher for patients.”
The panel says that despite the surge in cases, school disruptions should be minimized. They note that school closures have a “significant and highly inequitable impact on students, parents, and society.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce tweeted on Thursday morning, confirming that schools across the province will remain open for in-person learning.
NDPP leader Andrea Horwath says Ford marched Ontario right into “grave danger” and has failed to implement the tougher restrictions that experts are calling for.
With files from The Canadian Press