Ontario COVID-19 numbers 'on right track' if behaviour stays steady: science table head

The scientific director of Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table says Ontario appears to be on the right track and that cases should be declining in the coming weeks if people maintain current behaviour patterns.

“It's probably true that we have passed the peak,” Dr. Peter Jüni told CP24 in an interview Tuesday night. “The peak was around the holiday weekend, and we now see that there's probably a real downward trend.”

He cautioned that it is important "not to get ahead of ourselves" and said that a few more days of data are probably needed to be sure.

“So whatever you're doing in terms of your behaviour — with contacts, masking, etc. — keep doing that for a few more weeks. But I think we're on the right track now.”

Jüni estimated that based on wastewater data, Ontario is probably seeing somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 new infections per day, though many of those who are infected are believed to be asymptomatic and are going undiagnosed.

The science table estimated at one point that Ontario was seeing around 100,000 new infections per day, slightly higher than the current plateau.

Jüni said it appears that hospitalizations may also have peaked at around 1,700, with roughly 200 of those in ICU. He said a decline in wastewater indicators of COVID in the coming weeks would likely be followed by a decline in hospitalizations.

Ontario health officials reported that there were 1,699 patients in hospital with the virus Tuesday, 202 of them in the ICU.

Asked whether he thinks that people will be able to enjoy this summer without worrying about COVID too much, Jüni said that he is hopeful but that a new variant could always change the landscape.

“You need to think about this really as a tree and that so far we just have seen different major branches of the tree, like one was Alpha, the other one was Delta, one was Omicron,” he explained. “The virus still has a lot of branches on this tree and sooner or later, we probably will see a new variant.”

He said that theoretically could produce a summer wave.

“If we actually just continue with what we've seen, and it's basically just a bit more Omicron evolving, things would look probably quite okay during the summer months and early autumn as well.”

While restrictions such as masking and distancing are now optional in most settings in Ontario, experts have advised people to continue masking in indoor spaces, especially in crowded settings.

Masking had been set to expire in a high-risk setting such as hospitals and transit on April 27 as well, but the province announced last month that mask mandates for those settings would remain in place at least until June 11 because of the high rate of infection in the community.