Ontario will “stay the course” with its less restrictive COVID-19 measures despite a 41 per cent increase in infections over the last 10 days, and leave local health units to deal with flare-ups for now, says Health Minister Christine Elliott.
“We know that the numbers have gone up somewhat. We anticipated that would happen,” Elliott told reporters Tuesday as the seven-day average of new cases rose for the tenth day in a row and the province reported 441 more people testing positive for the virus.
“So what we’re seeing right now are largely regional outbreaks which we’re going to be dealing with regionally.”
She pointed to the Sudbury-area health unit, which is going back to tighter restrictions starting Wednesday. That includes reimposing capacity limits on restaurants, bars and other venues, physical distancing and stronger mask protocols at public events.
There were 61 new cases in the Sudbury region reported Tuesday, compared with 55 in the much more populous Toronto health unit.
“We are implementing these protections as a ‘circuit breaker’ in an effort to interrupt chains of transmission within the community and protect local businesses and workers by — we hope — avoiding any need for more drastic measures,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer for Public Health Sudbury and Districts.
The area has by far the highest rate of active cases in the province, with “widespread” transmission particularly in the 18 to 39 age group. which has lower vaccination rates. That has prompted the health unit to request people work from home as much as possible and limit outings to essential activities only.
“Our current situation is alarming now but could get even worse with winter months and more active indoor activities ahead of us,” Sutcliffe added. “No one wants to hear this news, but we needed to turn back the clock and protect people and the health system.”
The surge in Sudbury comes despite a full vaccination rate of 87 per cent, which is above the provincial average.
Elliott said her ministry and chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore, who will give his weekly update Wednesday, are monitoring the situation across the province daily.
The uptick in cases has taken place since Oct. 31 and follows an easing of capacity restrictions across the province earlier in the month as the fourth wave subsided. It now appears to be resuming, and the government has said it will reimpose stricter public health measures province-wide if the situation warrants.
“We do know there are going to be increases in cases as the weather turns colder,” Elliott said, calling more restrictions “potentially possible” but noting the health system is “ready to deal with some increase in cases” because plenty of hospital capacity remains.
There were 244 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals on Tuesday, including 134 in intensive care and 78 on ventilators. Three more deaths were reported, bringing the province’s pandemic death toll to 9,903.
“Even though we are seeing an increase in the number of cases, because so many people are doubly vaccinated now we’re still not seeing huge numbers of people in our intensive care units,” Elliott said.
“We are not changing course at this point.”
Just over 85 per cent of eligible Ontarians age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as the province awaits Health Canada approval to begin shots for children aged five to 12.
Moore has previously warned of “a difficult fall and winter” with the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus working deeper into the unvaccinated population, which is more at risk of needing hospitalization.
Premier Doug Ford outlined plans three weeks ago for Ontario to gradually end all pandemic restrictions by March, providing trends are good and a vaccine-resistant strain doesn’t arrive.
The province has been performing much better in terms of fighting COVID-19 compared to provinces including Alberta, and nearby jurisdictions such as Michigan.
With a population two-thirds the size of Ontario’s almost 15 million people, Michigan has been reporting almost 3,000 new cases daily and a full vaccination rate below 60 per cent. Ontario’s seven-day average of new cases reported Tuesday was 492. Michigan also has more than double the death toll of Ontario.
Article From: The Star
Author: Rob Ferguson