Modelling table co-chair says late fall lockdown 'unavoidable' if Ontarians don't reduce contacts

The co-chair of Ontario’s modelling table says that residents will only have to “moderately” reduce their contacts to mitigate the fourth wave of the pandemic but she is warning that failure to do so now could make another lockdown “unavoidable later in the fall.”

The modelling consensus table released new projections on Wednesday warning that daily case counts could hit 9,000 by October in a worst-case scenario and 4,000 if we continue on our current trajectory.

The modelling, however, suggested that there is a path to a more manageable scenario.

It said that if Ontarians reduce their contacts from 83 per cent of pre-pandemic levels to where they were back in June and July – about 70 per cent – case counts could soon begin to decline.

That is assuming that vaccination rates continue to rise and the province is able to increase the percentage of eligible residents with both doses from 77 per cent to 85 per cent, something that is far from assured.

In a series of messages posted to Twitter on Thursday, modelling table co-chair Dr. Beate Sander said that there has been some “confusion” about the modelling, which was quietly posted to the Ontario Science Table’s website without the usual press conference to provide context to the numbers.

She said that right now Ontario’s trajectory appears to be between the most likely scenario of 4,000 daily cases by October and the worst-case scenario of 9,000 daily cases.

That is because the upcoming Labour Day weekend and the reopening of schools and some workplaces is likely to increase contacts and therefore transmission, she said.

But Sander said that does not mean that Ontario is headed for a lockdown this month or that schools will have to switch to remote learning yet again.

In fact, she said that schools are “far too important” to treat as a public health measure and need to be protected at all costs.

“We can mitigate a fourth wave by (moderately) reducing our contacts. The sooner the better. If we fail now, a lockdown will be unavoidable later in the fall,” she wrote.

There was some confusion on the modeling released yesterday by @COVIDSciOntario. I will walk you through it, slide by slide. pic.twitter.com/djQIrg2AWP

— Dr. Beate Sander (@BeateSander) September 2, 2021

CURRENT TRAJECTORY WOULD SEE 500 COVID PATIENTS IN ICU BY NEXT MONTH

The modelling marks the first new projections provided to the public in months and has prompted concern from some officials, including Mayor John Tory who told reporters on Thursday that he was “anxious” over what the data appears to suggest.

Sander said that the current trajectory we are on will result in there being approximately 500 COVID patients in intensive care units as soon as next month, exceeding the peaks from the first two waves of the pandemic but not quite reaching the levels seen during the third wave in the spring, at least initially..

However, she said that even if we were to lower our number of contacts to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels predicted ICU occupancy will still exceed capacity.

That’s why she is calling on Ontarians to return to some of the practices that they had earlier in the pandemic, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“We need to SLOW DOWN now. Delta is like driving on an icy road, traveling fast means we need to break hard at the stop sign ahead of us. Traveling slower means we won’t need to break as hard and have more time to react,” she wrote.

Ontario’s daily case counts have risen nearly 300 per cent over the last month as the fourth wave of the pandemic has taken hold.