Growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations has slowed but Public Health Ontario says that a trend of increasing deaths is now ‘evident’

A summertime wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may be in the early stages of plateauing, with the latest data showing little or no change in most public health indicators over the last week.

The Ministry of Health says that there are now 1,492 people in hospitals testing positive for COVID-19, compared to 1,483 at this time last week. Of those people, 138 are in intensive care.

The pace of the increase marks a significant departure from last Thursday when COVID-19 hospitalizations had risen by more than 50 per cent week-over week.

Other public health indicators are also showing signs of plateauing after being on the rise since mid-June.

Over the last seven days an average of 1,701 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus were confirmed through PCR testing each day, virtually unchanged from the previous seven-day period (1,697).

That’s compared to a nearly 18 per cent week-over-week increase last Thursday.

In its latest epidemiological study, also released today, Public Health Ontario points out that case rates are nonetheless still on the rise in 25 of Ontario’s 34 public health units.

The arms-length government organizations also said that while hospital admissions decreased to 402 this week, from 507 last week a “trend of increasing deaths since the beginning of Wave 7 is now evident.”

“The number of severe outcomes reported in future weeks may increase, as these outcomes are lagging indicator,” it warned.

The positivity rate on PCR tests, meanwhile, actually dropped over the last week. The seven-day average is currently 14.24 per cent, compared to 15.12 per cent last Thursday.

The data is in line with wastewater surveillance performed by the Ontario Science Advisory Table, which is showing a slight reduction in viral activity in some parts of Ontario, including the Greater Toronto Area.

Members of the science advisory table, it should be noted, were among the first to sound the alarm about a summertime wave driven by the BA.5 subvariant back on July 6.

The latest data, which is now only released on a weekly basis, comes as Ontario begins vaccinating children as young as six months, following Health Canada approval of the Moderna pediatric vaccine earlier this month.

Speaking with CP24 earlier on Thursday, infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said opening up vaccination to this younger age group marks an important moment in the pandemic.

“While kids don’t get as sick as adults, kids can still get sick, they absolutely can,” he said. “And what we have seen from every age group above this cohort is that the vaccines reduce the risk of severe infection and I don’t think anyone will be surprised to see that exact same data in this cohort.”

The province added 82 net new deaths to its COVID-19 tally over the last week, up from 62 the week before.

It is the highest number of deaths included in one update since the province switched over to weekly reporting earlier this summer. The number of fatalities believed to be related to COVID-19 now stands at 13,637.