'We have hope ahead': Health official believes worst of Ontario's third wave is behind us
TORONTO -- After several days of a consistent downward trend in the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care in Ontario, the CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association says he believes we’ve seen the worst of the third pandemic wave.
Anthony Dale told CTV News on Friday that after reaching 900 COVID-19 patients in ICUs on May 1, hospitals are seeing a very slow decompression.
“We've probably seen the worst day of this this third wave, and that means we have hope ahead of us,” Dale said. “We have better days ahead as we slowly climb down from this third wave. It will take continued sacrifice, though, and very hard work by all of us, if we're to do that.”
But Dale is also warning that just because we are seeing some signs of optimism, it doesn’t mean this is the time to loosen restrictions or let our guards down.
“I think history will look back at the decision in February by the government of Ontario to open so quickly and so early with the second wave, to have been the wrong choice. Our ICU occupancy was far too high, and of course, that's what has led us to the point we are today. So let's learn from that mistake,” Dale said. “Let's not reopen too quickly. It would be a tragic error if we were to do that.”
Ontario is currently under a stay at home order, which is slated to expire on May 20. It’s not clear if the order will be extended at this point.
Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe was asked about any potential loosening of restrictions on Thursday.
“I would be surprised if things open up at the end of May, they may open partially – certainly we don't want to open up prematurely and end up with a fourth wave,” Yaffe said. “That's the last thing we need.”
HOSPITALS STILL NOT READY FOR A REOPENING
Dale says that although it’s encouraging to see a downward trend in the province’s intensive care units, there are still hundreds of COVID-19 patients being treated, and the health-care system is working beyond capacity.
“It's only by the massive transfer of thousands of patients, really, over the past few months that we've been able to ensure equitable access to ICU care,” Dale said. “In order to do this, we've had to cancel at this juncture at least a quarter-million surgeries in order to redeploy staff from all over the hospital system.”
Dale says there wasn’t enough time to decompress intensive care units between the second and third wave, which is partly why the health-care system has become as strapped as it has.
He says this is why reopening would lead to further disaster.
“We can't let our guard down. We cannot reopen, in my personal opinion, for the Victoria Day long weekend. Unfortunately, we have to get this virus under total control so that we never have to deal with this again. There can be no fourth wave.”
According to the Ministry of Health, there are currently 858 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.