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Local epidemiologist says we're on the cusp of a third wave

Zahid Butt, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo, said there are many factors to consider before claiming a third wave
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The Ontario Hospital Association says we are into the third wave of the pandemic.

The caseload in the province has been trending upward.  Ontario recorded 1,268 new cases on Monday.

However, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo isn't ready to say we're into the next wave, and that there's some things to consider before saying the third wave has begun.

"We can be in the beginning of the third wave," Zahid Butt told 570 NEWS, "But I think the important point to consider here is that we have just reopened. So, some of the areas have gone from grey zone to red zone, which means lesser restrictions. So, you would see some increases in the number of cases."

Butt says there was also backlog to consider, in addition to every other factor.

A couple factors to look at is the reproduction number and the number of hospitalizations.

As of Friday, Region of Waterloo Public Health said our median reproduction estimate is 0.9.

Ideally, that number should be 1.0 or under.

Another consideration is the presence of COVID-19 variants, and whether they're driving cases up.

"That can only be done through specialized genetic testing that can detect the COVID-19 variant," Butt said, "If you see the majority of cases that are testing positive for COVID-19 that have the variant, you can say that yes, it is driving the epidemic."

He said people still need to follow public health guidelines, even though there's a vaccine on the horizon.

"Otherwise, you still see a gain in the number of cases. Then public health authorities will put the zone into another lockdown," he said.

"We don't want more lockdowns. It's best to be cautious these days, especially with the new COVID-19 variants."

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