There are optimistic signs that Ontario's reaching the peak of the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, say top officials.
A provincial announcement today didn't detail how Ontario will reopen. Instead, Minister of Health Christine Elliott and chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore gave an update on the data being used for decisions on reopening.
While there is positive data, officials warn that the impact won't be felt in hospitals for weeks.
Ontario has been at a modified Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen since Jan. 5. Schools returned to in-person learning on Jan. 17.
Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford told an Ottawa radio station that positive news about COVID-19 restrictions is coming this week. Elliott echoed that sentiment today, saying more clarity is on the way.
Elliott said they are starting to see "glimmers of hope" and signs of stabilization.
“Omicron cases are expected to peak this month, with a peak in hospitalizations and ICU admissions to follow. New hospitalizations are slowing and are doubling closer to every two weeks,” she said.
She cautioned that February will continue to pose challenges, especially for hospitals.
Moore is also starting to have more hope and is cautiously optimistic.
For the first time in several weeks, he said hospitalizations and ICU cases are increasing at a slower pace.
The length of stay for Omicron cases is also five days, compared to nine days for the Delta variant, he said. Although PCR testing is limited to high-risk individuals, the test positivity rate is also stabilizing between 20 and 25 per cent.
While there are encouraging signs, Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson said hospitals remain in a "very challenging environment and we’re not out of the woods yet."
Among the hopeful signs, he noted is the number of COVID-positive patients in ICUs. Today, there are more than 500 people in ICUs compared to a high of just under 900 during the peak of wave three.
The shorter stays in ICUs is helping limit the overall rise in numbers, he said. However, there are still challenges with acute care beds where there are over 4,100 people in hospital.
“This is the highest total of hospitalizations we’ve seen throughout the pandemic and over the last seven days, fortunately, we are starting to see some slowing of that growth,” he said.
Staff absences have also been a challenge for hospitals, he said.