Ontario adds 121 deaths to its COVID-19 tally as one epidemiologist warns of ‘tough winter’ ahead

Ontario added another 121 deaths to its COVID-19 tally over the last week, as at least one infectious disease specialist warned of a “tough winter” ahead.

It is the highest number of deaths reported over a one-week period since the spring and comes on the heels of the Ministry of Health adding 109 fatalities to its COVID-19 death toll last week.

Meanwhile, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals rose more than 15 per cent week-over-week and now stands at 1,921.

That is the highest that number has been since early February.

“We know we are in for a tough winter, we know that, we have been talking about this for weeks and weeks and of course we still see a lot of pressure on the healthcare system. We have these viral illnesses, COVID, flu will start to become increasingly common and other viruses, like RSV, will make things challenging,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 on Thursday morning. “I know there is a lot of effort to alleviate the burden at the hospital level but we are still going to be in for a challenging fall and winter season in the healthcare sector.”

The latest data from the Ministry of Health suggests that there were 11,300 new cases of COVID-19 detected through PCR testing over the last seven days, up from 9,047 the previous week.

The seven-day positivity rate also continued to inch up, going from 15.7 to 16.7 per cent.

Wastewater surveillance has been showing a general upward trajectory in viral levels since about the second week of September.

Speaking with CP24, Bogoch said that the resurgence in viral activity should be a reminder to people about the importance of taking steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 or another respiratory illness in the coming weeks and months.

“We have a few tools at our disposal that certainly alleviate significant illness. One, we have COVID-19 vaccines that are widely available; two, we have flu vaccines that are available increasingly and thirdly, we know masks, they are not perfect, but they can reduce one’s risk of getting infected and if someone is infected it can reduce their risk of transmitting it to other people,” he said. “They are simple tools, we have had them for a while and we should be utilizing them.”

While the total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased week-over-week, the proportion of people receiving treatment in intensive care decreased (going from 158 to 148).

Outbreaks in the handful of settings with widespread access to PCR testing did continue to rise, however.

There are 197 active outbreaks in long-term care homes, compared to 190 at this time last week and 179 two weeks. The total number of active outbreaks in hospitals rose from 121 one week ago to 129 as of Wednesday.

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