Most public health units report rising case counts, possible 200 ICU bed occupancy by January says science table

Experts warn the increase in case counts could put a strain on hospitals in the coming weeks

COVID-19 related occupancy in the province’s intensive care units could hit 200 early in the New Year as most Ontario public health units are seeing a spike in infections.

A briefing from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table shows transmission is growing in 26 of the province’s 34 public health units.

Between Oct. 26 to Nov. 8, Sudbury saw the biggest growth in case counts, and only eight Ontario public health units did not see an increase.

The science table reported Monday that public health units have also reported a jump in test positivity rates, especially those in southwestern Ontario.

It is recommending a “deliberate pause on reopening” for the time being, continuing to wear masks indoors and getting fully vaccinated to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The science table pins the increase in the spread of infections in Ontario to the lifting of some capacity limits last month, more indoor gatherings, the colder weather and people spending more time indoors.

Also of note, the positivity rate has been on a steady increase while testing has remained flat.

“This indicates a real rise in cases,” according to the science table’s presentation.

The province’s current positivity rate stands at 2.5 per cent, up from 1.8 per cent a week ago.

A bright light is intensive care and hospital occupancy has remained stable.

The science table predicts ICU occupancy rates will likely rise to 200 beds in January, and possibly 250.

The science table notes that all scenarios assume that all health restrictions remain in place.

Capacity limits were supposed to have been lifted on Monday at nightclubs, strip joints, bathhouses and wedding venues, in which venues required proof of vaccination. The government decided to extend restrictions for the next 28 days “out of an abundance of caution.”

The province reported 598 new COVID-19 infections on Friday.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 99 new COVID cases on Friday since the last update on Wednesday.