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Friday, September 24, 2021

Ontario is facing ‘substantial’ fourth wave of COVID-19, first modelling since June suggests

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TORONTO — Ontario is facing a “substantial” fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and could see daily case counts reach 9,000 by October in a worst-case scenario, according to new modelling.

The modelling, which was prepared by Ontario’s Science Advisory Table, suggests that case counts could rise exponentially in the fall if Ontarians do not reduce their contacts.

In the worst case scenario, which assumes an increase in contacts as students return to the classroom and some workers go back to the office, case counts would top 9,000 by Oct. 1 and continue rising.

But in a more optimistic scenario, based on a 30 per cent reduction in contacts, case counts could begin declining within days and dip under 500 by October.

The current trajectory with no real change in contacts would see daily case counts reach about 4,000 by October, exceeding the peak reached during the height of wave three in spring.

“Our models, federal models, and models in other jurisdictions predict a substantial 4th wave,” a presentation accompanying the latest projections warns. “The fourth wave will affect all age groups with the potential to exceed ICU capacity.”

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table released new projections every two weeks during earlier waves of the pandemic but hadn’t released any new modelling since June.

The latest data was quietly posted to its website late on Wednesday afternoon after Premier Doug Ford held a press conference to announce a new vaccine certificate system.

There was, however, no press conference held to explain the projections as has previously been the case.

The modelling paints an alarming picture for the fall, suggesting that because of the Delta variant and the high number of Ontarians that remain unvaccinated there is likely to be a “rapid increase in the number of seriously ill people needing hospital care as workplaces and education re-open in September.”

In fact, it says that the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU could exceed the wave three peak (900) in a worst-case scenario.

That said, it stresses that if Ontarians do reduce their contacts to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and vaccination rates continue to improve it is likely that the number of COVID patients in intensive care will continue to hover around 200 for the foreseeable future.

“I will say that this doesn’t really surprise me and I would think that those who’ve been listening and hearing what we’ve been saying in terms of public health advice won’t be particularly surprised either,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa told CP24 shortly after the release of the modelling. “They are talking about the need for greater uptake of a vaccine and for reduced interaction and we have said all along when it comes to COVID-19 the more people interact with each other, the more they socialize, the more likelihood you have of transmission and this is particularly the case where you have unvaccinated people.”

The modelling notes that vaccination offers “substantial protection” against severe health outcomes and that those who are unvaccinated have a roughly 30 times higher risk of ending up in the hospital and a 48 times higher risk of ending up in the ICU.

With that in mind, it says that there will need to be a substantial increase in the number of Ontarians with two shots in order to truly protect the healthcare system.

About 77 per cent of eligible residents are currently fully vaccinated and 83 per cent have received at least one dose.

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