TORONTO – Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are lower than many experts expected until now, and while they point to a number of factors for relative relief, they say now is not the time to soften those measures.
For much of the summer, the province’s top doctor warned of a sudden spike in September, followed by a gloomy fall and winter. That hasn’t materialized, yet, as daily case counts remain below 1,000 and Ontario’s seven-day average chart shows roughly a plateau from early September.
That’s well below the worst case in Ontario’s most recent model, which showed around 4,000 cases a day at this point. The reality is more in line with the best-case scenario, in which cases would have fallen steadily since September 1.
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Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said that hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also stable even without further restrictions, noting that the proof of vaccination system went into effect. some days ago.
“There is a bit of cautious optimism that with the more open society, the kids going back to school, all the things that we … would have concerns about leading to escalating transmission, we are not seeing,” he said.
Ontario’s vaccination campaign is certainly helping, he said, particularly by targeting high-risk communities. About 86 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose.
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The province’s medical director of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, attributed the stable cases to Ontario residents’ adherence to public health measures.
“I think the people of Ontario are being cautious and cautious and have realized that this virus can take off at any moment if we let our guard down,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we only have to look west to see what can happen if we let our guard down with this Delta.”
In Alberta, there are more than 10 times the number of active COVID-19 cases per capita than in Ontario. Hospitals are overwhelmed and the director of the Alberta Medical Association says the main components of triage have already begun.
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Chagla noted that Alberta’s vaccination rate is not substantially lower than Ontario’s. What he sees as the main reason for Ontario’s relatively lower numbers is the different approach to public health measures.
In July, Alberta lifted its restrictions, including assembly limits and a mask mandate, while in Ontario, a few weeks later, the government announced that it would delay any further lifting of restrictions. The masks would still be required even as the province exited Step 3 of its reopening.
The masks certainly help, Chagla said, but it also matters what signal a government is sending, if the pandemic is being treated as over.
“I think again, did not get to a point where there was a complete decompression of all the rules, treat COVID as if it were normal? I think again he kept his foot on the gas to continue vaccinating even during the summer aggressively, using up to the last mile effort to bring it out, “he said.
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“I think keeping some of these precautions also helps with that piece of behavior about people still taking it seriously and not creating opportunities for transmission.”
Beate Sander, co-chair of the province’s modeling consensus table, said she would have expected to see more cases by now, but that doesn’t mean a bump won’t materialize in a few weeks.
“The situation is very fragile,” said Sander, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“It’s stable, it’s not exactly declining. Then things could change very quickly. You just need to look at Alberta, to see how quickly things can change. “
Sander said Ontario probably has yet to see an increase in instances of schools being turned on. Face-to-face classes have been in session again for a little over two weeks, but Sander said that because most of a child’s contacts, such as their parents, are likely vaccinated, if a child contracts COVID-19, the virus it would take longer to find someone else to infect.
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“The infection rate has risen quite a bit in children ages five to 11,” Sander said.
“Something is growing under the surface and because these are relatively small numbers compared to the general population, it will take a while to pass.”
The colder weather is also likely to force more gatherings and activities indoors and boost transmission, experts said.
“We’re just at that point where things could change and we could be out of balance,” Sander said. “We don’t want to open anything else.”
Moore said he still expects a difficult winter.
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“I’ve seen models where we have a significant increase in January and February after the Christmas holidays and that’s puzzling,” he said.
It’s good to have a bit of optimism, Chagla said, but it’s still important to continue to do everything that has brought Ontario to this point.
“There are many factors that are likely to say that we will come out the other side towards the end of winter, early spring and begin to return to a true normality, but there are still variants … there are still many things that could go wrong,” he said.
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