COVID-19 restrictions still required in Ontario for 'good summer,' modelling suggests
TORONTO -- After more than a month under a stay-at-home order, Ontario is turning a corner in the COVID-19 pandemic, but the province’s science advisory table says public health measures are still needed to ensure a “good summer.”
The table released the findings during a news conference Thursday, in which they said that case numbers, as well as positivity and hospitalization rates, are decreasing largely due to increased vaccinations and stringent lockdown measures.
They said the rate of vaccinations will need to stay high and that some public health restrictions are still required until mid-June to keep the third wave of the novel coronavirus in Ontario at bay.
“Our vaccine rollout has been impressive as of late…and the public health measures, however taxing and frustrating, have helped stop the spread,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 science table.
In the meantime, the table says that outdoor activities continue to be safe options for Ontarians to pursue as the stay-at-home order remains in place until at least June 2.
Under the order, which went into effect on April 8 and was extended by two weeks twice after that date, outdoor amenities like basketball courts and golf courses are required to close.
However, during a separate news conference Thursday, Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that those amenities would be allowed to reopen on May 22.
Elliott made the comments as the Progressive Conservative government announced that a three-step plan to reopen the provincial economy would begin on or before June 14, based on the current public health trends.
"It is possible we could reach the level of getting to Stage One before June 14, we are just giving that as an approximate date right now," she said.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, was also present at Thursday’s modelling update and has previously said that he would like to see case numbers below 1,000 per day before significantly lifting public health restrictions.
And while Williams said that he is “encouraged and optimistic” based on current COVID-19 situation in Ontario and the modelling released today, he and his team remain “cautious.”
"The trends remain encouraging, but these numbers are still high," he said.
COVID-19 infections in Ontario shot back up to 2,400 on Thursday, following two days in which case numbers had remained below the 2,000 mark.
School reopening would cause 6-11% increase in new daily cases
The science table also considered reopening schools in the modelling data presented Thursday.
They said that if schools were to welcome students back to the classroom as of June 2, Ontario would likely see a six to 11 per cent increase in new daily case numbers.
Despite this, the data shows that such an increase may be “manageable.”
Williams said a number of factors will go into deciding whether or not to keep schools closed through the end of the academic year, including the vaccination rates of special education staff and teachers.
He said he would “like” schools to reopen by June, but said he would be consulting with Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to determine an exact date.
Schools across Ontario have been closed to in-person learning since April 19, a decision that was made at the height of Ontario’s third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.