Hospitalizations, outbreaks among indicators showing signs of decline in Thunder Bay district after sixth wave.

THUNDER BAY — A “sixth wave” of COVID-19 infections may have peaked in the Thunder Bay area, says district health officer Dr. Janet DeMille.

Indicators like hospitalizations, outbreaks in vulnerable environments, and sewage signals all showed signs of a peak over the past week, DeMille said in an interview.

However, she warned that limited access to PCR tests has made it difficult to properly assess the situation on the ground.

The provincial government ended access to testing for most Ontarians in December during the Omicron wave amid overwhelming demand.

It has since expanded PCR testing to a limited number of higher-risk groups, including those with compromised immune systems, those aged 70 and over and those aged 60 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses.

“I think it’s actually really hard to know exactly what’s happening in our communities just because of the data we’re getting and what we’re not getting, so we don’t have a full picture of what’s happening,” she said. “But we can look at the data we need to see if things are going up or down. I would actually say that last week we seemed to have reached a plateau.

The number of COVID hospitalizations of the health unit in the district fell around 15 on Monday.

There remained 35 COVID-positive patients at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center, a slight decrease, although the number in intensive care rose to six.

The health unit identified a “sixth wave” of infections hitting Thunder Bay from mid-April after recovering from an earlier surge caused by Omicron in March

The wave caused a sustained period of higher COVID-19 hospitalizations, longer emergency room wait times, and large numbers of outbreaks in nursing homes, hospitals, and other vulnerable settings where outbreaks are still being monitored.

DeMille urged people to continue to exercise caution and said collecting outdoors and staying at home when sick would help prevent the virus from spreading, but said the public health approach is different from the removed mandates.

“I think what we want to do isn’t necessarily limit or restrict activities, it’s for everyone to look at their own circumstances and apply those layers of protection,” she said. “One of the things is that the weather is getting a lot nicer and it’s very safe to be outside. Even if someone has COVID, the ventilation outside is so good it’s pretty safe to gather outside.”

“I see people taking precautions – people mask up and stay home if they’re sick. We have a lot of people coming in for vaccinations… I think people are doing the right things overall.”

With files from Mitchell Ringos, TBT News.

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