Saturday, December 10, 2022

Experts urge caution but say Ontario better prepared for sixth wave

Ontario experts are urging measured precautions as the province enters a sixth wave with almost no restrictions – but there is word that we are prepared to weather the storm.

Health officials did not provide a full update on COVID-19 hospital figures on Sunday, citing scheduled website maintenance, but officials confirmed 10 new deaths related to the virus.

The province says more than 3,000 PCR tests came back positive, but that figure is underestimated because of limited access to testing. Meanwhile on Saturday, officials said 855 patients were in the hospital with COVID-19, a level it had not had since early March.

This latest waveform is powered by the new BA.2 omicron sub-version. The sixth wave comes as restrictions are minimal in Ontario – most of the measures have been lifted.

“This wave will certainly be the first where we see how it will affect Canadian society, if there are any restrictions,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said.

Many experts suggest that it is important to wear a mask and maintain vaccinations – especially booster doses.

“There is a wave coming and we lifted restrictions when we needed them most, what is happening now is not surprising at all,” said Dr. Kashif Peerzada, an emergency physician in Toronto.

“These measures should have been put in place. COVID is something we have to live with for a long time,” he said.

But even among experts, there are varying levels of concern about the impact of this sixth wave.

“We’re heading towards a situation where we’re going blind. We don’t have all the information, we’re facing a boom, and we don’t know how bad it will be, but if it’s like January ‘It’s going to hit us to the limit again,’ Peerzada said.

Bogoch said he is comfortable with the level of immunity in the province through both booster shots and transfusions, but still says boosters should be a priority for everyone.

“Most of the modeling suggests that this wave will not be as significant as the previous wave, but of course it is still going to affect people,” he said.

There are some calls for more to be done, including a stronger push for booster shots and wider access to a fourth dose.

Bogoch said that while some may benefit from a fourth dose, they will not be the main tool to help fight this wave. He said the biggest difference maker would be the third dose, masking and continuing with other public health measures at the individual level.

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