The anticipated third wave of COVID-19 is upon us, but it may not be as severe as the second wave that swept through over the winter, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says.
“We are in the third wave, it’s just a matter of what kind of wave will it be,” Dr. David Williams said Thursday. “Our numbers aren’t anywhere near the second wave we had before. We are still down … three weeks ago we were around the 1,000 to 1,100 mark average. Then two weeks ago we were at 1,200 to 1,300. This week we are at 1,300 to 1,400 or 1,500 (but) remember in the peak of the second wave, we were up at the 3,000 (and) actually touched over 4,000.”
Today (Friday), however, the number of new cases continues to trend upwards, with the Province reporting more than 1,700 new cases. The province’s top doc said the situation is being monitored closely and health officials will react through the colour-coded framework if they continue to increase.
“We are watching the situation.”
Driving the concern is the presence of COVID-19 variants, which are more easily transmissible and potentially more serious than the original strain. The Province also reported another 10 COVID-related deaths and a positivity rate of 3.3 percent, up from 3.1 percent the day before. At least 759 patients with COVID-19 are being treated in Ontario hospitals as of today, with 309 in intensive care units (ICUs) and 176 on ventilators.
Here in Simcoe/Muskoka, the health unit is reporting that 267 local cases have tested positive for the COVID-19 variant of concern UK B.1.1.7 (UK), seven cases have tested positive for the P.1 variant of concern (Brazil), one case has tested postive for the B.1.351 variant of concern (South Africa), and an additional 641 cases have screened positive (awaiting confirmatory testing).
There have been 172 new cases reported to the health unit for the current week; for the week of March 7, 298 new cases were reported, which was about 40 percent higher than the 212 cases reported for the week of Feb. 28.
More than 63,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the region, including more than 16,800 individuals who have received both of the required doses of the vaccine. In addition, more than 3,000 (or 94 percent) long-term care residents and over 3,400 (or 95 percent) retirement home residents have received their first dose. Over 1,800 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine have also been administered to adults 60-64 years by four Family Health Teams in Simcoe/Muskoka.
As of March 7, the seven day moving average was at 1.2. The aim is to get the reproductive rate (Rt) below one for seven days or more. If the Rt rate is above one, it indicates the virus is spreading; if it’s below one, the spread is slowing and containment/mitigation efforts may be working.
In a related development, the Province is expanding appointments through its online booking system to individuals aged 75 and over, effective this coming Monday, ahead of schedule. More than 50 per cent of Ontario residents 80 and over have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The progress we are making on our Vaccine Distribution Plan demonstrates what can be done when we unleash the full potential of Team Ontario,” said Premier Ford.
“Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline healthcare heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined. All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe.”