Ontario seeing about 100,000 to 120,000 COVID-19 cases per day, science table head estimates

Ontario is seeing an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily, according to the head of the province’s scientific advisory table.

Dr. Peter Jüni said on Wednesday that estimate is based on the amount of the novel coronavirus seen in Ontario’s wastewater — data experts began relying on to get a sense of the pathogen’s spread when the province started restricting PCR testing last year. He said the current spike looks very much like the fifth wave fueled by the Omicron variant when it reached a peak in early January. 

“We’re at the same level again that we were then,” Jüni told CBC News Network. 

The provincial government lifted most COVID-19 public health measures, including mask mandates in indoor settings, in March, but Jüni said Ontarians should start wearing masks again as they’re the quickest way to bring cases down.

“Of course, we’re in a different position. I agree, we shouldn’t panic but we should mask up. That’s the point here,” he said.

Jüni said the numbers are concerning — “we create the tidal wave again” — but he added Ontario might not see the same number of hospitalizations as it did in January due to mass vaccination. 

“The point here really is, we’ve build up a wall of immunity, thanks to third doses and thanks to a lot of people who got infected. This will help us,” he said.

‘No cause for panic,’ health minister says

An estimated 4.5 to five million people in Ontario have been infected with COVID-19 since Dec. 1, 2021, Jüni said.

“It’s basically us lifting the restrictions and now just moving too much toward normality,” Jüni said.

“We just need a little bit longer right now.”

But earlier on Wednesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province was expecting a spike in infections as the province reopened.

Vaccines and antiviral drugs should help the province weather the latest surge, she said.

“This is something that we are sure we’re going to be able to get through. There is no cause for panic.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says: ‘This is something that we are sure we’re going to be able to get through. There is no cause for panic.’ (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency room physician in Toronto, said hospitals are seeing a steady increase in admissions of COVID-19 patients, especially the elderly.

“It’s too early to say, but if it’s following anything like the last wave, we’re going to hit capacity in the next couple of weeks,” Pirzada said.

He said hospital workers are already burned out.

“Already, the wait times are crazy. We’re short staffed. People are getting sick every day. At the hospitals I work, they’re asking for people to come in early, leave late and cover for sick shifts,” he said.

Pirzada said the government needs to make a real plan to provide guidance on what to do at home, work and school as the pandemic continues. He recommended the return of mask mandates, improvements in ventilation of indoor spaces and twice weekly rapid testing at schools and workplaces.

“These are messages that I wish that our medical leadership would get out there, but it’s not really happening right now,” he said. 

“Dropping precautions when a wave was starting was a really bad move and it’s going to cost us all, unfortunately.”

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