Hospitalizations will increase after reopening: Ontario’s science table

New modelling from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table suggests that hospitalizations will increase with the easing of public health restrictions that began this Monday.

“We expect hospitalizations to rebound after reopening on January 31, and to remain at a prolonged peak, except under the most favourable assumptions,” said the latest report which was released on Tuesday.

According to the science table findings hospital “admissions are at highest levels across all age groups”. 

Hospitals are now caring for the highest number of people with COVID-19, ICU occupancy also continues to be high, the report noted.

Patient transfers have also resumed as hospital capacity in hardest hit regions becomes threatened. Thus far during wave 5, over 450 patients with COVID-19 have been transferred to prevent hospital resources being overwhelmed, the report revealed. 

While acknowledging that “it is challenging to model the spread of COVID-19 because of changes in testing”, the advisory body said “other indicators suggest this phase of the Omicron wave has plateaued or is in decline”.

Wastewater surveillance conducted in all 34 public health units points to a peak in community transmission on January 11 with “plausible range” of infections since December 1 of 1.5 million to four million, a presentation accompanying the report showed. However science table head Dr. Peter Jüni believes that three million is the more “realistic best case scenario.”

But since public health measures helped control this phase, relaxation of these measures will increase the spread of COVID-19, the report noted. However, the size of any resurgence is difficult to predict and will depend on vaccination, the spread of Omicron, and changes in behaviour (e.g., mobility, masking).

The scientist group reiterated that vaccination continues to be highly effective against severe outcomes (hospital and ICU admission). “Vaccinations (including the third dose) offer strong protection  against serious illness” and “increasing uptake across all groups will reduce the impact of the pandemic” the report stated.

“Unvaccinated people currently have a 6-fold higher risk of being in the hospital and 12-fold higher risk of being in the ICU compared to people who received 2 or 3 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine,” according to the province’s advisory body.

The science table also said, Omicron appears to affect the upper respiratory tract more than the lower respiratory tract, and therefore may have a different clinical course than previous variants, which may affect hospital and ICU admissions and lengths of stay.

Meanwhile the Ford government says it is sticking with its “cautious” reopening plan as Ontarians have to learn to live with the virus.

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