London

'Like watching a train wreck in slow motion' says the Londoner tracking the 6th COVID-19 wave

Like many other jurisdictions across Canada, London-Middlesex has entered its sixth COVID-19 pandemic wave, health authorities say. The latest data from a team of Western University researchers shows there's been an exponential rise in the viral load found in wastewater since mid-March.

Chris DeGroot leads the team that tracks wastewater data for London-Middlesex

Dr. Alex Summers, medical officer of health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said Monday the southwestern Ontario region has entered its sixth pandemic wave. (David Horemans/CBC)

Like many other jurisdictions across Canada, London-Middlesex has entered its sixth COVID-19 wave, health authorities say. 

With limited testing, it's become nearly impossible to know just how many people are infected. Now, wastewater tracking has become a key way to keep tabs on the prevalence of coronavirus in a community.

The latest data from a team of Western University researchers shows there's been an exponential rise in the viral load found in wastewater since mid-March.

"The amount of COVID that we are seeing right now is higher than at any other time in this pandemic aside from the peaks of January 2022," Dr. Alex Summers, medical officer of health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said during a media briefing Monday. 

Local engineer Chris DeGroot tells London Morning how traces of the Covid-19 virus are climbing in London's wastewater.

Chris DeGroot, an engineer who leads the team that tracks wastewater data, said compared to other municipalities in Ontario, London seems to be in the early phase of the sixth wave. 

"We're still well below the [January] peak," DeGroot said. "I don't see any signs right now of the rise slowing, so I do expect that, if nothing changes, I do expect that it's pretty likely that we'll see high viral load that is probably comparable to what we saw in January." 

On Tuesday, COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the province rose by 36 per cent from the week before, with more than 1,000 hospital admissions reported for the first time since late February. 

"It is disappointing just because it is so predictable. We've been tracking this for a long time in the wastewater and we can see what's happening ... and it's sort of like watching a train wreck in slow motion to some extent," said DeGroot. 

A savings account of social interactions 

In light of the prevalence of COVID-19, Summers is asking people to continue to wear a mask while in indoor public spaces, stay up to date with their vaccinations and limit social interactions for the time being.

Use your social interactions as though it is a savings account. Don't spend it all at once.- Dr. Alex Summers

"We will get to a point in time where we are not limiting our activities because of COVID-19, but we are still in a time where that is a way to protect yourself and to limit your risk," he said. 

"Use your social interactions as though it is a savings account. Don't spend it all at once, space it out and in doing so, you can limit your risk."

Summers said the rise in cases is likely due to a combination of factors, including the province's move to scale back on restrictions, such as capacity limits and mask mandates. 

"This is a wave that's being driven again by Omicron ... It's the same variant that was here, but it's just finding its way to anybody who was not protected the first go around from either previous infection or a booster dose," Summers said, adding it's only a matter of time, especially for those who are unvaccinated, before they develop COVID-19. 

"The wave will not spike as high as the previous Omicron wave, but it's still likely going to look higher than most of the previous waves." 

Summers added that as seen in previous waves, cases will likely escalate through April and they will start to decline through May and the summer.

"Regardless, we are we are not yet at the peak of the wave by any means."

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