Keep Rules for COVID-19 Masks and Vaccine Passports, Ontario Scientific Board Tells Doug Ford

As Prime Minister Doug Ford prepares to ease COVID-19 capacity limits in restaurants, bars and gyms starting next week, the scientific board advising him says public health measures such as masking and certification vaccination should remain in effect.

In a new model of the trajectory of the pandemic released on Friday, the scientific table says that recent experience in other countries suggests that the best way to maintain control of COVID-19 is to continue with “some public health measures”, already that colder weather and other factors increase the risk of high levels of cases and hospitalizations.

“Ontario’s case counts are expected to remain stable, even with more social contacts, if we maintain public health measures,” states a modeling presentation posted online ahead of a 2pm press conference by Ford and Medical Director Dr. Kieran Moore on a long-awaited easing of capacity limits.

As The Star reported on Thursday, the relaxation of customer capacity restrictions is part of a roadmap to be drawn for the next phase of Ontario’s pandemic reopening plan, now that Thanksgiving has passed without a notable increase in new cases of COVID-19.

The public health measures referenced in the model presentation are masking, vaccination certificates, adequate ventilation and air filtration systems, and detection of COVID-19 symptoms.

At worst, the model suggests that the number of new cases could rise to just over 600 a day by the end of November, compared to a mid-range trajectory of 500 and less than 200 at best. . Ontario reported 492 new cases on Friday, with a seven-day average steady at 406.

Cases have risen in eight of Ontario’s 34 regional health units in the past two weeks, but have declined in the rest, including the densely populated Greater Toronto-Hamilton area.

In a warning, the scientific table says that the experiences of Denmark and Finland show that “lifting public health measures can fuel a new wave, even with strong vaccine coverage.”

The model also suggests that vaccines have been “highly effective” in controlling the virus in Ontario, with stable hospitalizations and intensive care unit occupancy and within the capacity of the health system and mostly involving the unvaccinated.

Ontario has now vaccinated nearly 84 percent of those 12 and older who are eligible, and 88 percent have received a dose. Health Canada is reviewing the data submitted by Pfizer for its vaccine for children ages five to 11, and approval is expected in a few weeks.

“If we adopt smart and personalized strategies, such as working with children, parents, schools and communities, we can set the course for a robust immunization program in children when the vaccine is approved in the youngest age groups,” said the chart of Sciences.

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief for Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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