Variants of concern now account for more than half of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario and as people grow tired of more than a year of public health measures, officials are concerned about a dramatic rise in infections as they become the predominant strains of the novel coronavirus.
That was the message from Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe at a provincial news conference Thursday.
Ontario reported another 2,380 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, though the Ministry of Health said 280 of the cases are attributable to a “data catch-up process” in the province’s system.
Excluding those cases, it is still the highest daily count since January 24, or about two months.
The ministry did not specify when or where those extra 280 cases are from, or why they were missed earlier.
Today’s total includes 1,016 cases in Toronto, 294 in Peel Region, 244 in York Region and 152 in Ottawa.
They come as Ontario saw another record day for COVID-19 vaccinations. Public health units collectively administered 79, 446 doses yesterday. Some 304,386 people in the province have now had both shots of a vaccine.
Ontario has now given out more than 98 per cent of the 1,780,135 doses of vaccines it has received thus far from the federal government.
Meanwhile, labs completed 60,077 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 3.8 per cent.
The seven-day average of daily cases climbed to 1,794. It has been steadily rising for the last 10 days.
Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), a government agency that compiles a daily report for hospitals and health organizations, said the number of patients with COVID-19 requiring intensive care rose to 380. Admissions to ICUs peaked in mid-January at around 420, according to CCSO.
Intensive care physicians told CBC News that some hospitals in Ontario are increasingly transferring patients to other regions in an effort to make room for new admissions.
Moreover, doctors in the Greater Toronto Area have noted that, anecdotally, they are seeing more younger patients with severe forms of COVID-19.
They say their observations could be, in part, due to the prevelance of variants of concern in the province.
As of yesterday, a total of 15,657 test samples that tested positive for COVID-19 had also screened positive for a telltale mutation that indicates the presence of a variant of concern.
Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, a group of experts that helps guide the province’s pandemic response, estimates that variants of concern now account for about 58 per cent of all new cases.
Public health units also recorded the deaths of 17 more people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 7,280. The seven-day average of daily deaths is currently just more than 10, considerably lower than its second-wave peak of more than 60 during mid-January.
Cost of COVID hospital stays
Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Canada cost $23,000 per stay — about four times as much as the average.
CIHI said the average length of stay for a COVID-related hospitalization in Canada was two weeks.
The agency examined data from from January to November 2020, but did not include Quebec.
In that time period, the estimated total cost of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Canada was more than $317 million.
There were nearly 14,000 hospital stays for patients with a diagnosis of COVID-19 in Canada between last January and November, along with more than 85,400 emergency department visits for COVID-19.
Of the 13,906 COVID-related hospitalizations analyzed, CIHI found that 57.1 per cent were discharged home while 18.7 per cent, or 2,605, died in hospital.