‘Increasing Vaccination Isn’t Enough,’ Experts Say As Ontario Reports 2,421 New COVID-19 Cases

The scientific board advising Prime Minister Doug Ford says more “circuit breaker” measures in addition to booster shots of COVID-19 are needed to slow the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant in Ontario.

“Waiting to act means waiting until it’s too late to act,” Steini Brown, co-chair of the science board and dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said Thursday, presenting a new model for a tense holiday season and beyond.

“Increased vaccination is not enough to stop this wave,” he added, noting that each person infected with Omicron is infecting six others. “Waiting for more information will eliminate the opportunity to act.”

The warnings came as Ontario reported 2,421 new daily cases, 600 more than the day before and double the level posted last Thursday.

The model was presented to Ford’s cabinet on Wednesday before the government announced that anyone over the age of 18 can receive a booster shot starting Monday, as long as it is at least 84 days after their second dose, a period of expected previously it was 168 days.

Additionally, the province is limiting venues with more than 1,000 seats, such as sports arenas, arenas and theaters, to 50 percent of capacity as of Saturday, and masking requirements will be more strictly enforced.

More public health measures, such as capacity limits in other settings, such as restaurants and gyms, and better masking habits would help “buy time” for booster injections to take hold, Brown said.

“I recognize that these are not easy decisions,” added Brown. “Anything we can do to reduce cluttered indoor spaces helps.”

The government said it will continue to review trends and data and “act as necessary.”

Ford did not rule out more public health measures at a press conference on Wednesday, but indicated that no closures are anticipated. Officials say the schools will remain open.

Despite numerous reports that Omicron could be less severe than the Delta strain it is rapidly replacing, Brown insisted that is not true and predicted that hospital and intensive care unit occupancy will increase rapidly by the end of the month and could reach “unsustainable levels” in January. .

“It causes a serious illness … it is not just a case of a cold,” said Brown, who at another point in the briefing said that “the severity of Omicron is unclear.”

He said hospitalizations for Omicron in Denmark have been 0.81 percent of cases, compared to 0.75 percent for other strains, a similar rate.

Those Omicron admissions “are not the sobs,” he added. In actual numbers, there were 28 hospitalizations out of 3,437 Omicron cases and 665 hospitalizations out of 88,940 cases of other strains.

“Recent data from South Africa suggesting that around 25% less severity cannot be extrapolated to high-income northern countries due to differences in population age and degree of prior immunity / infection,” he cautioned the presentation of the model.

“A sharp increase in cases in South Africa during the current Omicron wave is followed by a sharp increase in hospitalizations, while the increase in deaths is currently less pronounced than in previous waves.”

Hospitalizations in Ontario have risen nearly 27 percent in the past four weeks and intensive care unit occupancy by 26 percent, according to statistics from the Scientific Table.

“We already have an upward trend and we haven’t seen the impact of Omicron yet,” Brown said, predicting that the new strain could easily surpass the highest levels of cases from the pandemic in Ontario, when the number of new infections reported daily approaches 5,000.

Without any additional public health measures, the daily case count could reach 10,000 a day by early January, the scientific chart warned. However, that projection did not take into account actions taken Wednesday to lower age eligibility for booster injections and capacity limits in stadiums and other large venues.

Ontario’s high vaccination levels will help too, with two doses providing good protection against serious illness and boosters further enhancing that.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the model does not take into account the accelerated booster program, which aims to double or triple vaccination levels to 200,000 or 300,000 per day, and capacity limits in large venues. .

“Today’s modeling confirmed that accelerating the boost campaign, as we are, will help mitigate the Omicron wave,” said Alexandra Hilkene.

“While the province’s ICUs remain stable, we expect the number of admissions to increase in the coming weeks as Omicron spreads, particularly among the unvaccinated.”

There are now 165 COVID patients in intensive care units, about 600 beds available immediately and “scalable capacity” for nearly 500 more, Hilkene added.

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