Ontario is reporting another increase in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, despite some encouraging wastewater surveillance data which suggests the sixth wave of the pandemic may have reached a plateau.

The Ministry of Health says that the number of people currently hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus is now 1,392, up from 1,332 one day prior.

It is the largest number of COVID hospitalizations recorded in nearly two months and represents a 23.6 per cent increase from this time last week.

The good news is that intensive care admissions continue to hold somewhat steady for the time being.

The latest data suggests that there are 177 people in intensive care units with COVID-19, including 81 that are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

That is up roughly 11 per cent from this time last week.

“Look there are some really early signals that we might be headed out of this wave and that is fantastic news but it doesn’t mean this wave is over,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch warned during an interview with CP24 on Thursday morning. “We really have to follow hospitalizations and watch those closely. Remember those are delayed metrics. Even though we might see wastewater metrics plateauing or declining it is not unlikely to see hospitalizations continue to rise or even plateau for a while. It will be days or even a week or two before we start to see that (decline) as well.”

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table released new wastewater surveillance data on Wednesday night which suggested that the level of virus in the community has likely reached a plateau at around 100,000 new cases a day.

However, the table’s scientific director Dr. Peter Jüni has warned that there is still a possibility that cases could rise again, especially after the Easter weekend.

On Thursday Ontario added another 23 net new deaths to its COVID-19 death toll, which is the highest number of fatalities reported in a single day since March 4.

Of those deaths 20 occurred within the last month, while the other three were added to the total as a result of data cleaning.

The ministry also said that there were 4,589 new cases confirmed through PCR testing over the last 24 hours with 18.1 per cent of all samples coming back positive. That is the highest number of positive cases confirmed through PCR testing since Jan. 29, though that could partially reflect a decision by the Ford government to widen access to the lab tests earlier this week as part of its efforts to provide antiviral treatments to more Ontarians.

“I still think at the end of the day the take home message is that there is still a lot of COVID out there,” Bogoch told CP24. “You still have to be careful, you still should we be wearing a mask indoors, getting vaccinated and getting access to antivirals if you are infected and at risk for severe infection. This is not the time to throw caution to the wind.”

Outbreaks still on the rise

While infection levels in the community may have peaked, outbreaks in the handful of settings with widespread access to PCR testing are continuing to rise.

The latest data suggests that there are now 147 active outbreaks in long-term care homes and 122 in retirement homes, up from 109 and 88 at this time last week.

There are also 78 active outbreaks in hospitals, 22 in shelters and 12 in correctional facilities.

At the peak of the fifth wave in mid-January there were a total of 426 active outbreaks in long-term care homes and 241 in hospitals.

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

 

   



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