New data shows that Ontario's COVID-19 cases are "cresting at a very high level" but the province is still in a "precarious" position.
"It's a very cautious hope, it's just the cresting of the cases," Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said on Thursday. "It's a little bit of hope but it's not the time to let up yet."
"The number of cases is still very, very high."
Dr. Brown said the "good news" is that cases are decreasing earlier and faster than projected, but the province can only reach February levels under the best case scenario.
He indicated that the current status of Ontario policy is not set to reach the best case scenario projection. The province is currently around the moderate projection, which could lead to Ontario seeing a dip in cases but reaching just under 5,000 COVID-19 cases a day by July 15, while also vaccinating about 100,000 people a day.
The proportion of COVID-19 tests that are positive in the province is also still "very high," something that has largely been quite consistent.
Dr. Brown stressed that as Ontario's testing rate remains flat, this is an important time when the province needs to continue to drive down key metrics.
"This is the place where you can either start to drive down the pandemic, drive down the case rates, drive down the number of hospitalizations, drive down the number of admissions to ICU and drive down the number of deaths," Dr. Brown said. "Or if we see a change, as we’ve seen in the past, you can see substantial exponential growth in the cases and really a continuing of the third wave or a fourth wave."
The proportion of cases that are variants of concern are "exceedingly high" in Ontario. Dr. Brown stated that as more variants emerge, it's "critical" that entry into the province is restricted to control the spread of potentially more dangerous variants that could be "vaccine escapees."
Mobility data also shows that workplace mobility, in particular, remains too high and will be a key change that would impact the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the province.
In terms of hospitalizations, under the best case scenario, ICU occupancy comes down to about 500 by the end of May, or possibly just under 800 patients in that same time period under the moderate projection. Dr. Brown said this is "unlikely" to be sufficient to restart surgeries in a "significant way."
Patients are currently being moved to different parts of the province, sick families being split up due to hospital capacity.
"This is likely to continue for a while, while ICU occupancy remains at such a high level," Dr. Brown said.
Ontario has administered around 4.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine but Dr. Brown stressed that it's important to prioritize areas with the highest incidence rates.
"We know that we’ll help control disease in these communities, we know that we’ll help to control disease across the entire province and we know that we’ll help to make some aspects of the pandemic a bit more equitable," Dr. Brown said.
As more vaccine are administered and Ontario works to control spread of COVID-19, the data presented states that outdoor activities still remain safer than indoor setting, but masking is needed when outdoors and physical distancing cannot be maintained, for example, when at a playground.
"Ontarians can make outdoor activities safer with distancing and masking when close to those outside their household. Indoor activities pose a significant risk," the information reads.