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Ontario’s expert pandemic advisers say it may be more challenging for the health-care system to respond quickly to a surge in critically ill COVID-19 patients during the fourth wave.

A report on critical care capacity from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table was published today as the province logged 153 patients in intensive care units.

The researchers concluded that staffing shortages, worker burnout and the resumption of treatment for other health conditions may strain the health system in the event of a patient spike.

Their report also raised the issue that influenza, which was essentially absent during the last flu season, may severely sicken more people this winter and they may also need intensive care in hospitals.

The group says public health measures are necessary to keep COVID-19 and influenza cases low and say longer-term measures are needed to tackle staffing issues.

Recent projections from the group have indicated that intensive care occupancy will continue to climb in the coming weeks and may reach around 200 patients by the new year.

Meanwhile, Ontario has now recorded 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Three virus fatalities were reported today, pushing the death toll to the 10,000 mark.

The grim figure was reported along with 687 new cases.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 329 of the new cases are in people not fully vaccinated against the virus and 50 cases are in people whose vaccination status is unknown.

There are 153 patients in intensive care with COVID-related critical illness, including 96 people on ventilators.

There were four patients from Saskatchewan being treated in Ontario hospitals as of Monday, three of them in intensive care.

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