COVID-19 burden of illness may be plateauing regionally: MLHU

London, Ont., and Middlesex County’s top health official provided a hopeful assessment about the region’s COVID-19 situation on Tuesday, but says residents can’t let their guard down if they want to slow down the virus’ spread.

During a media briefing hosted by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, acting medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers said that while “COVID rates continue to be high in our region… some early indications are consistently suggesting that we are seeing a plateau in the burden of illness in our community.

“It is important to note that the rates of COVID-19 and the burden of illness in our community remains exceptionally high and higher than it was prior to any wave.”

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The suggestion of a potential plateau is nothing new.

Last week, Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table scientific director Dr. Peter Juni said recent drops in test positivity and people’s mobility outside their homes make him “carefully optimistic.” He added that these trends could suggest that the COVID-19 situation in hospitals may start to peak or even plateau in the next few weeks.

On an international level, the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Tuesday that some countries are seeing cases peak, but he also noted that it shouldn’t be seen as a sign that these countries are in the clear.

In London and Middlesex County, the test positivity rate for the week of Jan. 2, the latest week on record, was 24 per cent, down from 28.3 per cent the week prior. Tuesday also saw a daily case count of 191 new infections, down from 260 the week prior.

However, daily case counts are no longer considered a fully reliable reflection of COVID-19 activity in the region due to changes in eligibility for PCR testing.

Elsewhere, London Health Sciences Centre continues to see record-high hospitalizations, including the latest record of 166 inpatients reported on Tuesday.

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“I think the accelerated rate and the exponential growth (of Omicron) is plateauing, if not, has plateaued,” Summers said.

“The slowing in the acceleration that we’re seeing is because of the public health measures that were put in place and the massive reduction in mobility and social contacts that people in our community have had, in addition to the rapid uptake of booster doses among our community.”

Another reason for the potential plateau, Summers says, is that “Omicron is working very quickly,” in that those who were infected or exposed to the virus are quickly seeing their situation resolved.

Despite the indications, Summers says it’s important that those who aren’t yet triple-vaccinated still get their booster shot, adding that the risk of the Omicron variant will remain well beyond the peak of the current COVID-19 wave.

“Our objective here is to slow the transmission of Omicron through our community, not necessarily to stop it,” Summers said.

“We are slowing it effectively though, through masking, through boosting and through maintaining physical distance as we stand.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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