Rising COVID-19 hospitalizations will strain Ontario healthcare system

Science table suggests Omicron "will almost certainly hit us hard and fast"

New modelling from the province’s Science Advisory Table paints a picture of hospitals under significant strain even without accounting for the Omicron variant.

Updated projections released on Tuesday suggest there will be a rise in ICU admissions, with as many as 250 and 400 COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care in January.

The science table says this will put hospitals already struggling with staffing shortages and employee burnout “under strain again.”

“Vaccine effectiveness in Ontario remains very high but experience in other countries suggest we will need to boost immunity with third doses,” according to the report.

“To control cases and the impact on our health system, we need to increase vaccination (particularly 5-11 year-olds) and continue to use public health measures to reduce transmission”

The science table predicts the spread of the new Omicron variant will likely drive COVID-19 cases about current projections.

On the assumption that half of children aged 5 to 11 will be vaccinated by the end of December, the scientists suggest case counts will reach about 1,750 a day in early 2022.

Toss in Omicron, and the experts say if the variant proves to be “moderately” more infectious and if vaccines continue to be “moderately” effective against it, daily case counts will likely surpass 2,000 in early 2022.

The scientists warn daily case counts could top 3,000 in early January if Omicron proves to be “much more infectious” and “much more” resistant to vaccines. The numbers referenced by the group were seen during the third wave in April.

In a hypothetical scenario in which further public health restrictions are re-introduced — leading to a 15 per cent drop in the overall transmission of the virus — and 30 per cent of five-to-11-year-olds are fully immunized by the end of the year, cases could flatten out around 1,100 per day by some point in January.

Ontario reported 928 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Hospitalizations hit a level not seen since mid-September, with 340 people receiving treatment for the virus. Of those patients, 165 were in intensive care.