Number of COVID-19 cases not as concerning as hospital admissions, says Dr. Nathanson

Health professionals expect COVID-19 cases across Simcoe Muskoka and the province to continue to climb as the cooler months draw closer, inflating concerns about what the fourth wave will mean for hospital ICUs.

Stevenson Memorial's chief of staff says the number of cases doesn't necessarily worry him.

"Cases are one thing," says Dr. Barry Nathanson. "The vaccine is intended to convert dangerous cases to mild cases. So the number of cases is not concerning, per se."

Nathanson says the concern surrounds the number of hospital admissions and the severity of their condition.

"At best, by the way, vaccination confers 90 per cent protection from serious disease, but that leaves 10 per cent or so unprotected," he explains. "Those numbers translate into a number of hospitalizations."

The critical care doctor says during the second and third waves, an emergency standard of care was implemented as hospitals were overwhelmed.

"We were put into the position of having to potentially decide between patient A and patient B based on an objective set of criteria, knowing we couldn't provide care to everybody."

Nathanson says he's worried that this wave could mean having to make similar decisions, this time with children involved.

"This fall, we face a surge, potentially, of pediatric or childhood cases as well," he says of the number of children under 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated.

"That for me is completely beyond imagination and whatever measures the science table advises the province to undertake to mitigate whatever surge the numbers say we're facing, you'll know that I would say that for all of our sakes we need to take that advice rigorously and quickly," Nathanson concludes.

Experts say reducing contacts is critical to curbing the fourth wavealong with vaccinations.

On Wednesday, the province introduced a new vaccine certificate program that prompted an influx of vaccine appointment bookings, according to Ontario's health minister.

The minister reported more than 7,100 vaccine appointments were booked through the provincial online system compared to just over 3,400 the day prior.