Wastewater testing suggests COVID-19 could be plateauing

Encouraging preliminary data from wastewater appears to indicate the latest wave of COVID-19 could be levelling off in the region.

"We may be seeing a plateuing or even a decrease in this current Omicron surge," said Dr. Barry Pakes, York Region chief medical officer of health.

What we flush or send down the sink is analyzed to measure the amount of COVID-19 present.

According to public health, studies show that a significant proportion of individuals with active COVID-19 infections shed the virus in their stool, sometimes even before symptoms start.

Testing wastewater detects the virus in both symptomatic and asymptomatic people.

"It doesn't tell us the number of cases, it just tells us how big that signal is, and it does seem that signal has stabilized and potentially decreased," Dr. Pakes said.

Wastewater samples are analyzed by Ontario Tech University.

An Ontario Tech University Associate Professor of Biology noted a "massive spike" in the viral signal in wastewater samples in Simcoe County in recent weeks, including Barrie, Orillia and Midland.

And while there are signs of an infection plateau, Dr. Andrea Kirkwood said, "it's going to be a bit more delayed in more rural areas."

The cautious optimism comes with a few caveats.

"We're still looking at levels that are quite a bit higher than what we were measuring before, like in Delta," Dr. Kirkwood stated.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sohail Gandhi, the former president of the Ontario Medical Association, said he believes "from a hospitalization point of view" the worst isn't there yet.

"I think we have another week or so before we hit that peak," he offered.

Dr. Pakes credited the latest round of restrictions for improving the outlook and said he would like the province to maintain some limitations for a while longer.

However, on Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said an announcement would be coming this week on loosening some of those safety measures implemented earlier this month.