‘There’s no lid on the pot anymore’: Sharp rise in COVID-19 relative to health experts, leaders | CBC News

Just when you may have felt the pandemic is over, data and health experts are here more than two years later to remind you: It’s not.

The coronavirus found in Ottawa sewage, currently the most accurate way to measure the spread of COVID-19, continues to rise and set more records each day, far exceeding the amount in January’s Omicron-driven wave.

Key figures like hospitalizations, test positivity and outbreaks have also been on the rise.

“There is a bit of concern right now because the wave [is] larger than expected,” said Earl Brown, a virology expert and professor at the University of Ottawa.

“The pandemic is definitely not over… The hope is that those infections are not too severe.”

Researchers measure the average level of the novel coronavirus in Ottawa sewage, represented by the bold line, and the bars representing the daily level are the highest on record through April 5. (613covid.ca)

Many health officials predicted increased transmission as restrictions were lifted in March and the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant picked up speed.

The concern, experts said, would be whether the surge in COVID cases would overwhelm hospitals. It is not clear if that will happen.

While hospitalization rates remain relatively low, they lag behind infection rates. Data throughout the pandemic suggests hospitalizations in Ottawa peak a week after sewage levels peak, which has not yet happened.

“You don’t want to get to a point where you have too many cases, you can’t handle them and you’re like, ‘Well, we wish we had done something,'” Brown said.

Difficult to translate sewage level to case number

Tyson Graber, a co-director investigator for the COVID-19 Wastewater Project in Ottawa, said the record amount of COVID in wastewater doesn’t necessarily mean more people are infected.

It’s “really difficult to equate sewage data with number of cases because that equation changes or is expected to change between variants,” he said.

Still, the lack of public health restrictions coupled with rising levels of COVID is cause for concern, he said.

“I think there’s definitely a concern that it could go higher. There’s really no lid on the pot anymore.”

Graber said that even if it’s an overestimate, it’s better than underestimating the numbers.

CLOCK | Relationship of wastewater with hospitalizations:

Better immunity may mean less severe disease despite increased sewage, researcher says

Tyson Graber, co-principal investigator of the Ottawa coronavirus sewage monitoring program, says existing immunity to COVID-19 may mitigate the effects of a sixth wave, keeping hospitalization rates lower than in previous waves. 1:07

Local health leaders send a message to residents

There were 23 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for active COVID-19 treatment in Thursday’s Ottawa Public Health update, with an increase this week bringing this number back to what it was in mid-February.

It has also increased its count of all COVID-19 patients, regardless of where they live or whether COVID brought them to the hospital.

That and rising local test positivity rates for those still eligible for a PCR test have hospital chiefs of staff and medical health officers in Ottawa and surrounding eastern Ontario health units concerned.

they issued a joint press release on Thursday encourage people to do four things: get all the doses they’re eligible for, limit close contacts, wear a mask in closed public spaces, and stay home if they’re sick.

Hopefully, those actions will help stem the burden facing the health care system during this wave, which Brown estimates is likely to be at least two weeks away.

“The masking … decreases transmission,” Brown said. “Maybe you’re not going to have as many parties or big parties. Maybe put that off for a bit.”


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