Toronto

Ontario reports 24 more deaths linked to COVID-19, 1,165 hospitalizations Friday

Ontario is reporting 1,165 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, down from 1,207 on Thursday and 1,453 exactly one week ago.

Nearly 1,000 cases of a new Omicron sublineage confirmed but not cause for alarm, say experts

Registered nurse Janelle Van Haltren prepares to attend to a patient at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto on Jan. 13. Ontario is reporting 1,165 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario is reporting 24 more deaths linked to COVID-19 and 1,165 patients hospitalized with the virus.

Friday's hospitalizations are down from 1,207 on Thursday and 1,453 exactly one week ago.

According to the Ministry of Health, 39 per cent of people hospitalized were admitted specifically for treatment of symptoms brought on by the virus, while the rest were admitted for other reasons and then tested positive.

Of those in hospital, 163 patients require intensive care, down by five from the day before, the province says. Eighty-one patients require the help of a ventilator to breathe.

Fifty-three per cent of people in ICU were admitted because of COVID-19, while the rest were admitted for other reasons and then tested positive for the virus.

The new deaths reported Friday push the province's official death toll to 13,146.

The province is also reporting at least 1,412 new COVID-19 cases through limited PCR testing, with 14,413 tests completed the day before. Due to testing limitations, the actual number of daily new cases is likely far higher than the figure reported, officials have said.

The provincewide test positivity rate stands at 9.1 per cent.

New sublineage not cause for alarm: experts

Meanwhile nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of a new sublineage of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been discovered in Ontario, but experts say it doesn't warrant significant concern.

In a recent brief, Public Health Ontario says BA.2.20 represents an evolved form of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant that has been primarily growing in Ontario.

It notes that the first case of BA.2.20 had a sample collection date of Feb. 14 and that there have been 996 cases confirmed in the province.

Over the past four weeks, the percentage of BA.2.20 cases has remained stable, at approximately 5.5 per cent.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of infectious disease with McMaster University in Hamilton, says there is "no need for panic" since the proportion of BA.2.20 cases has not caused "leaps and bounds" of COVID-19 cases overnight.

Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease professor at Queen's University and the medical director of infection prevention and control at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, says BA.2.20 has been around for about three months now and is "really not expanding."

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, says public health officials are tracking various COVID-19 sublineages, but are mostly keeping a close eye for an entirely new variant of concern that could cause a substantial increase in transmission.

With files from The Canadian Press

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