ontario covid cases

Experts say a 6th wave of COVID-19 is now well underway in Ontario

Ontario is now fully immersed in a sixth wave of the COVID pandemic, according to Science Advisory Table director Dr. Peter Jüni — we just can't tell how large of a swell it is or how fast this new wave is moving.

"Oh, we're in the middle of it. When you look at our wastewater, it's very clear," said Jüni to CP24 on Tuesday night when asked if the province might be experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

"You can call it whatever you want, you know; whether it’s a resurgence of the Omicron wave we had or a sixth wave, the point is really to understand this is not a BA.2 wave."

BA.2, a highly-transmissible subvariant of Omicron, has been making headlines around the world in recent days for its swift proliferation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed this week that BA.2 is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 circulating stateside, accounting for an estimated 55 per cent of all infections. The World Health Organization similarly pegs a staggering 86 per cent of global infections on BA.2 right now.

Jüni doesn't blame this new subvariant for an uptick in local infections (per wastewater samples), however — he blames the Ford government's recent loosening of pandemic restrictions.

Ontario officially lifted its controversial mask mandate on March 21, meaning that people are no longer required by law to wear face coverings inside schools, shopping malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bars, gyms, or anywhere else, save for a handful of high-risk settings for the first time in nearly two years.

The move to ditch masks followed the lifting of vaccine passport requirements and capacity limits on March 1, 2022, and precedes the planned removal of "all remaining measures, directives and orders" on April 27.

Critics have been arguing since the government's latest reopening plan was announced that it seems hasty. Many have expressed support for keeping public health protections, particularly mask requirements, in place for at least a few months longer.

It would appear as though concerns about the removal of mandates leading to an uptick in new cases of COVID-19 weren't unfounded.

"The point here really is it's entirely our responsibility what we're seeing and we just got a little bit too much ahead of ourselves and here we are," said Jüni to CP24 of rising infection counts. "And we just have our task at hand to keep the slope of the wave upwards relatively flat so that we are not challenged again in our hospitals."

The celebrated epidemiologist, who will soon be leaving the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table to take up a new position at Oxford University in England, did say at the end of February that the new subvariant of Omicron was unlikely to strain Ontario's hospital system as much as what we saw during the peak of the pandemic.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, has stated multiple times that he feels confident that the province's healthcare system can handle any future outbreaks "thanks to our high vaccination rates and natural immunity."

Unfortunately, it's hard to predict any imminent hospital capacity problems because we don't know how many people are getting sick. As Jüni pointed out to CP24, the actual number of current cases is "impossible to measure because testing in the province has been severely scaled back."

Based on wastewater samples, Jüni's team believes that Ontario is seeing somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day right now.

He, like others in his field, are cautioning the government against lifing any more restrictions in the immediate future, telling CP24: "We first need to ride this out before we lift any more restrictions and strongly recommend to people again; please mask, please get vaccinated."

Lead photo by

Bart Barrera

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