TORONTO — Ontario's rising COVID-19 infection curve is a continuation of the fourth wave that started earlier in September, and not the start of a fifth wave, the province's top doctor said Thursday as he warned that the upward trend would continue.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said case counts never got back to a low level despite a slight dip before steadily increasing again in late October.
"We never declared the fourth wave over, this is simply a continuance," Moore told reporters.
"Sadly, all modelling would predict this would slowly, steadily rise and increase over the coming months, including January and February."
He said higher case counts were anticipated as people moved indoors in the cold weather, and asked people to remain cautious until the weather warms up in the spring and more people become eligible for third vaccine doses to protect against the "formidable foe" of COVID-19.
"It just continues to want to spread and it won't slow down again until we get outdoors in the springtime," he said. "We do have a time period over the next four months that we'll have to continue to be very, very vigilant."
Ontario reported 748 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and five more virus-related deaths as the seven-day average for infections climbed to 692.
Some health units in the province's north and southwest have been responding to local case surges and Moore said the province was working on sending resources to help.
Moore, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott have all said the province will respond locally to COVID-19 surges and not reintroduce public health measures across the whole province.
Experts have linked the late-October rise in cases in part to the lifting of capacity limits in some indoor spaces, and some health units have since reintroduced those measures.
On Thursday, Moore said the province is also monitoring acute care capacity in hospitals.
Ontario's science advisory table has modelled for intensive care occupancy to hit 200 patients by the new year. As of Thursday, there were 135 patients in Ontario intensive care units, including some from Saskatchewan.
The top medical executive for Ontario Health, which oversees the provincial health system, told The Canadian Press this week that the province can handle between 250 and 300 intensive care COVID-19 patients before other services like surgeries would have to be cancelled.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press