Ontario’s top doctor says that an increase in daily COVID-19 infections heading into the fall is anticipated and “not a cause for panic” as the province inches closer to existing Step 3.
The province has seen five straight days of case counts above the 300 mark, leading in a rise in the seven-day rolling average of daily infections to around 306.
The last time the seven-day average was this high was in late June.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said the region has experienced a “slow and steady rise” in daily cases of COVID-19 over the last one week, and that “Ontarians should expect to see a continued increase as we enter the fall.”
“This is not a cause for panic,” he stressed. “Our case rates will fluctuate over time.”
“We can anticipate that they will continue to go up, but it is our collective responsibility to avoid a sudden acceleration in cases by getting fully immunized.”
Moore attributed the earlier rise in cases to the long weekend and some of the Step 3 reopening that happened throughout the last few weeks of July.
“I see our cases slowly going up throughout August and then as we move indoors, the case counts will continue to rise,” he said, adding that public health departments have the capacity now to conduct contact tracing and reduce the spread of the disease.
“Given the vast majority of our elderly individuals are protected, we anticipate that the admissions to hospital, the burden of the illness that will require hospitalization, will be in younger age groups that we saw in wave 3.”
At the same time, Moore says that with strong immunization rates and proper masking protocols will give the health-care system an opportunity to recover.
“If we really work well together in Ontario, we can blunt this. We can decrease its impact. We can lessen morbidity and mortality and have less young people die as a result.”
ONTARIO ABOUT TWO WEEKS AWAY FROM HITTING 2ND VACCINE TARGET
As per Moore, 81% of Ontarians aged 12 and older have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The region is additionally around 3% away from meeting its second dose vaccination target of 75%.
“It looks like we’ll be able top hit those targets over the next week to 10 days,” he said. “The highest immunization rate we can achieve will allow us to have the safest reopening.”
So as to move out of Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, 80% of eligible Ontarians must have received their first dose, 75% must have received their second dose, and every public health unit must have at least of their eligible population fully vaccinated.
Other key indicators like hospital capacity and case counts must additionally remain stable.
At this point, capacity limits will be relaxed across all sectors, as well as for public events and social gatherings. The one exception will be restaurants, who will still have to maintain a distance of 2m between patrons or separate them with a barrier like plexiglass.
Masks will additionally continue being compulsory indoors and where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Moore added Tuesday that his “aspirational goal” would be 90% of Ontarians vaccinated. He said once the immunization rate is high enough there will be a natural immunity and low rates of illness-causing intermittent outbreaks without having a significant impact on intensive care.
At that point, perhaps multiple years down the line, the disease could become seasonal “like any cold virus.”