Toronto health officials say our actions now will dictate summer restrictions
With Toronto's beautiful spring weather and newly-reopened patios, it's no wonder residents are eager to put the pandemic behind them and get back to normal life — but the city's top doctor is here to remind everyone that the only way to have a summer with relaxed restrictions is to keep being vigilant.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa once again outlined the concerning trends related to COVID-19 variants of concern during the city's press briefing Monday afternoon, explaining that 5,428 cases have now screened positive for mutations to date — up from 3,920 last Wednesday.
While #COVID19 vaccines offer hope, most of us are still waiting for our turn. As we take advantage of being outside in warmer weather, for now our protection lies in masks & distance in every way we can create it. My remarks from today's briefing-> https://t.co/GeawsqxsKj— Dr. Eileen de Villa (@epdevilla) March 22, 2021
She added that the city's R number is now 1.1 — meaning the outbreak is growing. The seven-day moving average is up from 420 cases to 450, overall per cent positivity is now at 5 per cent, and 50 per cent of all cases in Toronto are now variants of concern.
"Our data, while sobering, is moderate compared to what is happening as a result of sharply rising cases elsewhere in the world," she said.
Multiple countries in Europe are experiencing rapid resurgences in cases and deaths, she explained, with Hungary, France, Poland and Germany all reintroducing lockdown measures to curb the spread.
"I am emphasizing data and developments today that should make us all think twice, to temper expectations about changes to our lives in the short-term, to encourage Torontonians to proceed cautiously in the next few weeks, and to protect yourself," she said.
"By doing so, we will be able to sustain our current circumstances and allow for more choice in where we go and what we do. If we fail to proceed cautiously, we will have fewer choices, fewer choices available in an effort to limit the risk of infection."
Dr. de Villa did acknowledge that residents are feeling some optimism and hope thanks to the arrival of vaccines, and with good reason, as Toronto vaccine sites administered almost 102,000 doses from March 15 to 21 alone.
But she reminded residents that vaccines, while effective, don't completely prevent infection, and that it takes up to four weeks for the body to develop a substantial amount of antibodies after receiving a shot.
Not to mention that the majority of Toronto's population remains unvaccinated. Only those aged 75 and older are eligible to receive the shots as of March 22.
"The rest of us have to remember, we're not vaccinated yet, and that as we take advantage of being outside in warmer weather, our protection lies in well-fitted masks and distance in every way we can create it," she said.
The doctor emphasized that while we are all crossing our fingers for a care-free summer with fewer restrictions, whether or not that can happen depends on how we act now.
"While I anticipate, and am hopeful, for a more relaxed summer, it's vital to remember it's still March. Summer is weeks away," she said. "Our current numbers, and the exponential resurgence of COVID-19 around the world, is a great concern. Things can yet go right, or go very wrong, depending on what we do while we wait."
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