Ontario’s top doctor says he “absolutely” expects an increase in COVID-19 cases beginning in September and the region is already preparing to respond to the possible surge.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the comment on Tuesday during a COVID-19 briefing.
Moore said he has seen modelling from Public Health Ontario and the region’s science table that suggests cases will rise when the cooler weather arrives.
“I absolutely expect a rise in COVID activity in September,” Moore said, adding that a spike in cases would majorly affect the unvaccinated population. “Last summer, we had the same type of lull,” Moore said. “Ontarians are taking great advantage of the outdoors, but as soon as we come back [to] the indoors, normally, all respiratory viruses start to come back, especially around the third week of September.”
He said the province’s health officials are already collaborating with local public health departments to prepare for a possible increase in cases.
He said there is a “real call to arms” in Ontario to increase vaccine coverage before September when persons return to more indoor activities.
“We really, really want to have the highest immunization rate possible heading into September,” Moore said. “No one wants to see our health system impacted … All of that hospital activity is preventable through immunization.”
MOVING TO A COMPLETE REOPENING
Moore appeared confident on Tuesday that the province will reach the targets laid out by the government to leave Step 3 of its reopening plan by August 6, though there is still lots of work to be done before then.
Step 3 starts on July 16 and will stay in place for at least 21 days.
In order to move past Step 3, at least 80% of the eligible population aged 12 and up needs to have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 75% should receive their second dose.
Officials say that in order to move forward, no public health unit should have under 70% of their population fully vaccinated.
Upon meeting these thresholds, the large majority of public health and workplace safety measures, including capacity limits for indoor and outdoor settings and restrictions for social gatherings, will be lifted.
Immunization levels in Ontario are apparently at 78% for first doses and 54.6% for second doses.
“If we want to move safely and effectively through Step 3 to a complete reopening of our economy, we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Moore said.
Moore said Ontario has both the vaccine supply and time to hit the targets by August 6, but Ontarians need to continue getting inoculated.
Dr. Dieran Moore says he is not seeing current evidence that a COVID-19 booster shot could be necessary, maybe just for the immunocompromised population.
He said the number of doses being administered each day has fell in Ontario in recent days, with first doses dropping even further.
Moore said he comprehends people get busy in the summer but that they need to set out time to get vaccinated.
“It’s a challenge to all Ontarians. If we want to get through to the next phase of reopening, which is a complete reopening with no public health measures, we’ve got work cut out for us.”