Ontario’s 7th Wave of Covid-19 is Here, Top Doctor Confirms Amid Exponential Growth
Ontario has officially entered its seventh wave of COVID-19, driven this time by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, the province’s top doctor confirms. “Sadly yes, we’re in another wave,” Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer, told CBC News on July 6 after Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table pointed to exponential growth in most public health units.
The BA.5 subvariant has been rising slowly since early June but really started to “take off” mid-month, becoming a dominant strain, Moore said. Approximately 60% of confirmed cases now are a result of the subvariant, Moore said. Ontario can likely expect another four to five weeks in this wave, which is now in about its third week, he said, adding infections are expected to increase over the next 10 days before beginning to slow.
As for fourth doses, Moore says the focus has been to prioritize boosters for those over 60 years of age and those most vulnerable, while encouraging third doses for the rest of the population. The province is now reviewing eligibility for fourth doses, however, and will have more to say in the coming weeks, he said.
The new wave comes amid the summer months when many are spending more time outdoors — something that would have otherwise been expected to help curb the spread of transmission, raising questions about what will happen as more people head indoors later in the year.
“Lots of unknowns for the fall but I can assure all Ontarians we’re preparing for it,” said Moore. “We may ask Ontarians to wear masks as we go indoors into the fall and we may mandate it if our health system has too many people getting admitted, too many people waiting in emergency departments… All of us want to maintain our health system capacity.”
In a series of tweets on July 6, the science table pointed to several key indicators signalling the beginning of a wave, little more than a month after the end of most public health measures, including mask mandates.
Test positivity above 10% for 1st time since May
For the first time since May, test positivity is above 10%, with wastewater signals rising across the province overall and within most regions, the science table says. Around 80% of public health units are seeing exponential growth in cases, though the group says the actual reproduction number is hard to nail down since the province moved to limit PCR testing.
On top of that, Ontario is seeing its first increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since May, with the number of people admitted for the virus higher than at any time last summer. The latest numbers tracked by the science table show that as of June 29, 605 people were hospitalized with the virus. That’s an increase of 89 people from the week before. An estimated six people per day died from the virus as of July 3, up from three the week before, the group says.
Indications of a new wave in Ontario come as several G10 countries have already seen a jump in cases driven by Omicron subvariants, including France, the U.K., Italy, Belgium and Switzerland, among others.
Canada Extends COVID Border Restrictions to September 30th.
Canada’s vaccine mandate for border-crossing truck drivers will remain in place until at least Sept. 30, restricting unvaccinated foreign nationals from entering the country. Americans crossing the U.S.-Canada border must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are subject to random arrival testing and are mandated to load data through the ArriveCAN app within 72 hours of travel, according to an announcement from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over,” Canada Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement. “We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus.”
The announcement follows a decision from the Canadian government in June to pause mandatory vaccination requirements for most domestic and international air travellers, as well as the suspension of the mandatory vaccination requirement for employers in the country’s federally regulated air, rail and marine sectors.
The United States has an identical border policy for truck drivers and unvaccinated foreign nationals in place. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced in April it was indefinitely extending the requirement of non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico by land — including essential activities such as work, business or education — to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.
About 30,000 trucks cross the U.S.-Canada border every day, including the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Canada. The bridge is a vital trade link, processing about 10,000 trucks and $300 million to $500 million worth of goods daily.
Protests over vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions erupted across Canada in January, with truck blockades halting commercial traffic at critical U.S.-Canada border crossings.
Source: Freight Waves