Updated COVID-19 modelling shows flattening, but Ontario still in “fragile situation”

Adalsteinn Brown, Dr. David Williams, and Dr. Dirk Huyer reveal new COVID modelling. (Photo Credit: CPAC/YouTube).

The Ontario government released new COVID-19 modeling Thursday showing that key indicators for the pandemic are flattening in some areas.

That said, almost all public health units are seeing fluctuation in case numbers, with numbers move up and down over time, “giving this idea that we have not really turned a corner yet,” said Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. “We may seem to be flattening, but really, we’re in a very fragile and precarious position.”

Intensive Care Unit occupancy at the province’s hospitals is increasing and access to care is continuing to decrease and long-term care mortality rates are increasing.

According to the new modelling, cases are beginning to plateau in some areas, but it is difficult to say if Ontario is seeing a turnaround in cases yet. In the previous modelling, there was a projected growth rate of three and six per cent, but this has decreased to between zero and one per cent over the last few days. Percent positivity has also gone down across all age groups.

At the current rate of case growth, the province is likely to see numbers in a similar range to what is being reported. However, if the growth rate grows to three per cent, there could be up to 4,000 daily cases and if the rate grows to five per cent, there could be up to 9,000 cases per day.

There was a 63.2 per cent increase in hospitalization growth, a slight increase from the 61 per cent growth reported last time. It is projected that ICU occupancy will hit over 200 in December, regardless of case growth models.

“Even with cases flattening, hospitalized cases are going to continue to grow for a while, because of the progression of the disease, and the time it takes to go from infection to symptoms, to the requirement of hospitalization,” said Brown.

Long-term care mortality has increased, with 64 deaths in the last seven days. However, long-term care cases are beginning to flatten. This is due in part to the age distribution variations between the first wave and the second wave, said Brown. In the first wave, there were more cases reported in older age groups, but the province is not seeing as much of a spike in that age group in the second wave.

Finally, access to care (e.g. surgeries) continues to decrease below the volumes shown in 2019. For example, there was a large drop in surgeries during the first wave, meaning that those who needed surgery were unable to receive it. Access started to pick back up as cases decreased and measures were put in place to restart surgeries, but it is now decreasing below volumes in 2019. There are similar trends seen with other care like diagnostic imaging and alternate level of care patients.