COVID-19 wastewater level at its highest since January wave

The COVID-19 viral signal detected in Ottawa’s wastewater is at its highest level since the start of the year, when the first wave caused by the Omicron variant peaked.

Data from the COVID-19 wastewater monitoring project show an exponential rise in the seven-day mean viral signal since March 10, which was the lowest point in 2022. The daily signal detected on March 24—the most recent data available—is similar to daily levels detected in mid-January.

Graph representing COVID-19 wastewater viral signal in Ottawa in comparison to hospitalizations. Data last reported 2022-03-25. (613covid.ca/wastewater/)

Co-lead investigator on the wastewater monitoring project Dr. Robert Delatolla told CTV Morning Live on Monday that the virus level has been increasing rapidly since mid-March.

“For the past week, it’s really, really going up. Every day is higher than the last and that rate of incline is really concerning,” he said. “It’s reminiscent of how quickly we were going up in the wastewater with our first Omicron wave.”

A rise in the viral signal typically precedes a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. So far, hospitalization levels in the city have been relatively steady, but hospitalizations often lag by about a week or more behind a rise in infections.

“At this stage, when we were going up this steeply in the wastewater in the first Omicron wave, we already had seen a significant uptick in hospitalizations and we haven’t seen that just yet,” Delatolla said. “The hope is that even though there seems to be more transmission and higher signal, hopefully it won’t translate into a greater amount of hospitalizations and a greater amount of people being severely sick.”

OPH is reporting 10 residents in hospital because of an active case of COVID-19, unchanged from its last report on Friday, with zero in intensive care, down from one.

OPH figures only reflect residents who are being treated specifically because of an active case of COVID-19. Local hospitals report their own figures on patients who have tested positive.

Here is a look at how many COVID-19 patients are in each hospital:

  • The Ottawa Hospital: 25 patients
  • Queensway Carleton Hospital: 12 patients (as of Friday)
  • Montfort Hospital: Two patients
  • CHEO: Four patients

According to OPH data, 99 per cent of acute hospital beds in the city are occupied by all patients, regardless of place of origin or COVID-19 diagnosis, and 75 per cent of ICU beds are occupied.

The public health unit added 325 new laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 to its total count since Friday. Daily case counts are considered an underrepresentation of the true amount of COVID-19 in the community in large part because of ongoing provincial restrictions on who is eligible for PCR testing.

Two new COVID-19 related deaths were reported in Ottawa since Friday, bringing the city’s pandemic death toll to 762 residents.

Across Ontario, four new deaths were reported. COVID-19 was the underlying cause in three of them and the virus contributed to the fourth, according to government data. According to the province, there are at least 655 people being treated for the novel coronavirus in Ontario hospitals, including 124 in intensive care.

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