- Public health officials are tracking COVID-19 prevalence through municipal wastewater testing. In several locations across Ontario, they’re seeing a “sustained increase” in the viral signal.
- According to public health dashboards, the viral signal has increased in parts of Toronto, York Region, and the cities of Oakville, Milton, and Pickering in the Greater Toronto Area.
Public health officials are tracking COVID-19 prevalence through municipal wastewater testing. They’re seeing a “sustained increase” in the viral signal in several locations across Ontario, indicating that the number of cases is on the rise.
The increase comes after the province rolled back mask mandates and other restrictions, including capacity limits for many indoor spaces, and was surpassed earlier this year.
However, experts say it’s too early to issue a warning, pointing to measures expected to protect Ontario’s population, such as a high vaccination rate.
“We are noticing a sustained increase in the signal we are receiving,” said Dr. Barry Pakes, the medical health officer for York Region, north of Toronto.
“It’s expected, but it’s still alarming,” he said.
According to public health dashboards, the viral signal has increased in parts of Toronto, the York Region, and the cities of Oakville, Milton, and Pickering in the Greater Toronto Area. COVID-19, which infected people secrete, is used to determine the signal.
The dashboards show that the viral signal hasn’t changed much in much of the Durham Region and Peel Region. And the signal in Burlington is fading. Testing frequency varies from once a week to several times a week, and the results may be delayed.
However, modeling released last week by Ontario’s Science Advisory Table suggests that the caseload is starting to rise across the province, with estimates that the increased viral load detected in our water amounts to about 28,000 active cases, doubling in six days.
“We are unquestionably experiencing exponential growth. About half of the public health units undergoing testing are experiencing exponential growth. “Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of Ontario’s science table, echoed this sentiment.
Juni cited the removal of vaccination requirements and capacity limits in most indoor settings on March 1, when the province lifted the restrictions.
“The task will be to take things slowly. If in doubt, keep masking and don’t increase your contacts too much,” Juni advised.
Dr. Eric Arts, a Canada Research Chair in HIV Pathogenesis as well as Viral Control at Western University, said that while mask mandates were removed on Monday, it’s likely that those changes haven’t yet been accounted for in the data.
“I believe that the upcoming March break will be a telling sign of how much the wastewater signal will increase, and while I hope it doesn’t increase significantly, I suspect it will,” he said.
According to Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, the increase is expected after any restrictions are lifted, but it must be viewed in context.
“Omicron will spread as we remove some restrictions.” “We know now that it is a milder infection, particularly among those who have been vaccinated,” she said.
A new strain is gaining ground in areas where wastewater samples are being DNA tested.
“It’s more than 50% BA.2, an Omicron variant,” Pakes explained. “It’s not more dangerous per se, but it’s significantly more transmissible.”
Source: Global news
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