Surge in COVID-19 cases worrisome but hospitalizations still lower than first wave, doc says

OTTAWA — The top doctor in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit says the surge in COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario on Monday is worrisome, but he notes there are some key differences between the second wave and the first wave.

Speaking on CTV News at Noon, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis notes that the 700 new cases that were reported in Ontario on Monday are, so far, an anomaly compared to previous days.

“Don’t forget, over the last week or so, we’ve been hovering in the three-to-four hundred range, and so this one spree itself is cause for alarm but, also, let’s look at what happens over the next week or so,” he said.

Dr. Roumeliotis says many cases that are being reported now are linked to gatherings over the Labour Day long weekend.

“Since that time, the number of gatherings has decreased, in terms of the limits,” he noted, as Ontario imposed new restrictions on private gatherings indoors and outdoors. “Usually, we see about month or so the repercussions of large events or large spread. At this point, we’re not even four weeks from it now. I’m hoping that this is the peak of that period and that, moving forward, the public health measures that were already taken, will have an effect.”

RECORD SPIKE IN CASES NOT LINKED TO HOSPITALIZATIONS

While 700 new cases in a single day is a record for the province, Dr. Roumeliotis notes that the hospitalization rate has remained low.

“In April, when we had the 640 cases, we had high rates of hospitalization and ICU. Of course, we want to avoid that, so now is the time to act,” he said.

Ontario reported 640 new cases of COVID-19 and 50 new deaths on April 24. At the time, 910 people were in hospital for COVID-19 treatment, with 243 in intensive care.

In Ottawa, 57 new cases and seven new deaths were reported that day. There were 32 people in hospital with eight in intensive care, according to an archived report from Ottawa Public Health.

OPH reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Monday, with 18 hospitalizations and three people in intensive care.

CTV News has also reported that the COVID-19 death rate has been dropping as ICU treatments are improved.

CAPACITY AT RISK, HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION SAYS

The rate of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Ottawa has been steadily rising since July, when there were days when just a single person was listed as being in hospital because of the virus. However, it has yet to reach the peak level seen in May, when as many as 60 people at one time were hospitalized with complications from COVID-19.

Still, the Ontario Hospital Association warns that the growth of virus in the province puts their ability to provide care at risk.

“At this rate, Ontario hospitals are facing a direct threat to their ability to continue delivering the highest quality of care to Ontarians,” said Anthony Dale, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association.

According to OPH’s COVID-19 dashboard, 98 per cent of acute hospital beds in Ottawa are occupied across the entire hospital system in the city as of Saturday, the latest figures available. OPH says 43 per cent of ICU beds and 11 per cent of ICU ventilator beds are occupied.

On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford formally announced Ontario was experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, several days after a similar announcement locally by Ottawa Public Health.

Dr. Roumeliotis said the OHA is correct in its worry that hospitals are at risk if nothing is done.

“If we don’t do anything at this point in time, beyond what we’ve been doing, I think we will be heading toward increased hospitalizations,” he said. “But, again, the patterns of infection, the types of people who are getting infected are different than they were in March, so it’s hard to extrapolate 100 per cent.”

In the early days of the pandemic, adults over the age of 50 made up a majority of the cases, but the demographics of the pandemic have shifted toward younger residents, particularly those in their 20s, who are hospitalized at a much lower rate.

Dr. Roumeliotis says he expects that more measures to curb the spread will have an effect.

“I’m reassured that I do know that there will be other measures, if necessary, that will be brought in. I know that we’re going to be doing something about it,” he said.

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