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Ontario ICU capacity reaching critical level because of COVID-19: OHA

Last Updated Mar 26, 2021 at 1:30 pm EDT

Health-care workers get ready to turn a COVID-19 patient in the ICU who is intubated and on a ventilator from her back to her stomach at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The third wave of COVID-19 is threatening the province’s intensive-care capacity as the number of severely ill patients approaches a previous peak, the Ontario Hospital Association said Friday.

Anthony Dale, president of the association, said 401 people with COVID-19 are currently in intensive care units across Ontario and it appears that number is set to rise past an earlier record of 420 people.

“Every day the situation grows more serious,” Dale said in an online post, noting that there are currently a total of 1,871 people in hospital ICUs across Ontario.

The rising number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care comes as provincial health officials say more contagious variants of the virus now make up half of new cases in Ontario.

The province’s top doctor said earlier this week that variants are causing more severe illness, leading to intensive care admissions and deaths.

Dr. David Williams also noted that more young people appear to be getting more severely ill from the variants.

The scientific director of an expert panel advising the province said Thursday that a strict provincial shutdown, similar to one imposed when the pandemic hit, is needed to curb the alarming spread of variants in Ontario.

Currently, even the strictest level of the province’s pandemic framework isn’t enough to reduce rising infections from more contagious variants, said Dr. Peter Juni of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

Ontario reported 2,169 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 12 more deaths linked to the virus. An additional 49 cases of the more transmissible variants were also confirmed, as the total case count rose to 1,612. A majority of the cases (1,494) are of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

Health officials have said the B.1.1.7 variant is currently the most prominent in the province, representing 50 per cent of new cases.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said Thursday that COVID-19 variants of concern continue to pose a “significant threat” until more people are vaccinated.

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