The Ontario Hospital Association has stated that the province is "now in wave 3" of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on new data released by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
"[With] new VOC [variants of concern] cases steeply rising & ICU [numbers] trending up (nearing 350 today), strong adherence to public health measures is urgently needed to prevent overwhelming hospitals," a tweet from the hospital association reads.
The data shows that variants of concern accounted for 49 per cent on March 15.
As of March 11, the reproduction number (Rt) for new variants was 1.41, compared to 1.07 for non-variants of concern. The Rt refers to the average number of additional infections from one case. Each variant of concern with the N501Y mutation, B.1.1.7 (originally detected in the U.K.), B1.351 (first identified in South Africa) and P1 (initially detected in Brazil), are known to be more transmissible.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, did not definitively say that the province is in a third wave of the pandemic but admitted Ontario is "coming up" from a dip.
"I would not be surprised if we moved over 40 per cent," Dr. Williams said about the percentage of variants of concern in Ontario.
"I would say we are into that base of a third wave. What does that mean? How big it is? That’s to be determined."
Ontario has confirmed 1,184 cases of variants of concern in the province, including 1,106 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, 44 B.1.351 and 34 P1 variant cases.
From March 3 to March 9, cases tested for mutations or variants of concern saw a 36.1 per cent positivity.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, confirmed there are 8,630 samples that have been screened positive for a mutation with no determined lineage or link to the three known variants of concern.
When asked if there is an Ontario variant of COVID-19, Dr. Yaffe said that is not the case at this point but, "not to say it can't happen."