Ontario’s top doctor predicts ‘calm summer’ for COVID-19 but worries about Omicron subvariants

Ontario’s top doctor says COVID-19 indicators are heading in the right direction ahead of what looks to be a “calm summer,” though he is concerned about BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, says novel coronavirus levels in wastewater are declining, as is the test positivity rate and the number of people hospitalized due to the virus.

Ontario reported 1,451 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday, down from 1,538 in hospital Wednesday.

Of those in hospital, 175 required intensive care — a decrease of one from the previous day’s total— and 75 patients needed the help of a ventilator to breathe.

Moore predicts a “low level of endemic activity” throughout the summer, but says he’s already preparing for the fall when more activities take place indoors and the risk of transmission is higher.

He says keeping up to date with vaccinations is key in stopping the spread, whether virus activity is high or low, and encouraged people to get booster doses because immunity wanes four to six months after the last dose.

Family doctor Christa Sinclair Mills fills doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the House Calls office in Toronto before heading out the visit patients at home. House Calls is a Toronto-based program delivering medical care to house-bound seniors. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario has been offering fourth doses to everyone 60 and older since early April, but Moore says only 21.8 per cent of people in that age group have received four shots.

Moore says the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, which have been detected in South Africa, are 10 per cent more transmissible than the already highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant that took off in late winter in Ontario.

7-day average continues to decline

The province reported at least 2,160 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday — up by 165 from Wednesday. These were confirmed through the 16,360 tests processed within the past 24 hours. Due to testing limitations, officials say the actual number of daily new cases is likely far higher than the figure reported.

The seven-day average for case count continues to decline and now sits at 1,853. This is the second day in a row the rolling average has come in below 2,000.

Ontario is also reporting 14 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total throughout the pandemic to 13,034 to date.

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