Published Thursday, February 25, 2021 10:16AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 25, 2021 5:28PM EST
The modelling, which was released by Ontario’s science table on Thursday afternoon, paints a slightly more optimistic picture than projections released two weeks ago which warned that we could see 5,000 to 6,000 daily cases by the end of March in “the most likely scenario.”
The latest modelling says that cases, hospitalizations and ICU stays “will likely soon increase” as the new variants spread, particularly the more infectious B.1.1.7 strain.
But it says that Ontario will only see 4,000 cases a day by the end of March in a worst-case scenario and about 2,500 cases a day in the more likely scenario. In a scenario in which the variants of concern spread at a lower rate than expected cases could continue to decline and go down to about 500 a day by the end of March.
“The best analogy is a minefield,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, who is the co-chair of Ontario’s science table, said during a news conference at Queen’s Park. “Case numbers are down and the extended stay-at-home order in the GTA has been a powerful protection against more rapid growth but the worst dangers are immediately in front of us. Case rates are already rising in some of the public health units again and the new variants of the virus are another serious hazard ahead of us.”
There have only been 462 fully confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in Ontario so far, though more than a thousand samples have screened positive for variants of concern and Brown said that officials believe about 20 per cent of new cases are actually mutations.
He also pointed out that the weekly growth in new variant cases in Ontario has been roughly on par with that of other countries where cases surged and that a “United Kingdom scenario where cases triple in about a month is not necessarily off the table,” given that the B.1.1.7 variant is thought to to be about 50 per cent more infectious than other COVID strains.
“Regardless of our ability to control total spread of cases, we anticipate that we will continue to see the variants of concern out compete the variant we have been dealing with up until now and become the dominant form. As they become the dominant form of the virus they are likely to actually increase case rates as we move forward,” Brown warned.
The last time that modelling was released on Feb. 11 Brown urged the Ford government not to lift restrictions and warned that doing so would pus at “real risk of a third wave and potentially a third lockdown” in the spring.
However, on Thursday he said that the latest data now shows “a clear improvement and a clear path forward,” despite the lifting of the stay-at-home order outside of Toronto, Peel and North Bay.
He said that there may be “isolated flare-ups” through the summer and into the fall, particularly in congregate settings, but stressed that if the government acts “very quickly to make sure those don’t spread” it can protect the gains that the province has made.
“A better summer is in sight,” he said.