COVID positivity rates continue to climb as Ontario adds 32 deaths to tally

Another 32 new virus-related deaths were added to the province’s COVID-19 death toll today as ICU admissions saw a slight drop over the past 24 hours.

Provincial health officials say there are now 1,074 COVID-19 patients receiving treatment in Ontario hospitals, down from 1,091 on Tuesday but up significantly from 778 one week ago.

Intensive care admissions dipped to 168 today, down from 173 on Tuesday but up slightly from 165 last Wednesday.

The province says 46 per cent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted due to the virus and 54 per cent were admitted for other reasons. In the ICU, 70 per cent of COVID-positive patients were admitted for the virus and 30 per cent were admitted for other reasons.

Another 32 virus-related deaths were added to the province’s overall total, including 22 that occurred more than a month ago and 10 that occurred within the past 30 days. This brings the province death toll to 12, 511.

Another 3,444 cases were confirmed by provincial labs today but that number continues to be a significant undercount due to restrictions on who is eligible to be tested.

With 21,553 tests processed over the past 24 hours, officials are reporting a positivity rate of 18 per cent, up from 15.1 per cent last week.

Many experts have cautioned that the rise in community transmission marks the beginning of a new wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, urged the province’s chief medical officer of health to provide regular updates to the public about the ongoing situation and noted that there are a “few simple things” that can be done to minimize the impact of this latest wave.

“In Ontario we are in a sixth wave. I don’t know how bad this is going to be but it’s happening. Right now the government is pretending it isn’t happening. The chief medical officer of health for the province is nowhere to be found. I think the average person in the public isn’t really sure what to do,” Warner said in a video message posted on social media Monday.

“There is no real data other than wastewater that is clearly going up but nothing is being done. There is really no incremental public health measures that can be considered reasonable. Testing is hard to find and early therapeutics are also difficult to find.”

He urged the province to re-impose mask mandates inside essential public spaces, including grocery stores and pharmacies.

“We also need access to early testing so the early therapeutics that are available can actually be provided to people in a timely manner,” he said.

Starting this week, the province is rolling out second booster shots to those 60 and older, along with select other groups most at risk of severe illness.

“The benefit of this fourth dose is likely not going to be as significant as the benefit of the third dose. But there is probably some benefit based on the data we have to date,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told CP24 on Wednesday morning.

“I think it is fair to say that a fourth dose will be beneficial for people who have the greatest risk of hospitalization. NACI says those are people over the age of 80 and of course people who are severely immunocompromised or in long-term care facilities and you can consider people a bit younger than that.”