Here's what experts are saying about a 4th wave of COVID in Ontario
Is a 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic cresting toward Ontario? And if so, is there anything we can do to stop it?
As Doug Ford's provincial government debates extending the ongoing stay-at-home order (again) this week, worries are mounting among members of the public about why such a move would be necessary, and what might happen if doesn't go through.
It depends on who you ask, but most medical experts seem to agree that not even vaccinations can stop a fourth wave of the pandemic in parts of Ontario — if restrictions are lifted too soon, that is.
"The medical experts have been very clear that we need to stay the course right now," said Health Minister Christine Elliott to reporters at Queen's Park Monday afternoon, noting that "we are not at a place where we can release the stay-at-home order" right now.
We hope so. June 2nd is not enough. It should be extended till June 20th. Cases are still and ICUs are only starting to decrease now. https://t.co/OqDnHj59qT— Pamela RG (@ChicDelights8) May 10, 2021
The decision about whether or not to lift restrictions on May 20 as scheduled is up to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.
Mayors from the GTA and Hamilton are calling upon the province to make this call sooner than later so that businesses and residents can plan ahead, but Elliott cautioned that "this is something that does take a lot of time and thought and context."
Elliott said that the Ford government is actively engaged in conversations with "different groups and businesses" about potential reopening timelines.
Those who've publicly urged the province to hold back reopening to date seem to agree that reopening too soon will lead to an inevitable fourth wave.
Correct. Patience is a virtue. Give the Hospitals a chance to decrease census of COVCID patients, and let vaccinations ramp up further. So we can open without risking a 4th wave. https://t.co/JhbYzZea3A— Najma Ahmed (@najmadoc) May 10, 2021
"My peers and I don't want any kind of restriction in place for one minute longer than is necessary, but we have seen what happens when we rush to reopen — it always leads us to a resurgence in daily illness, hospitalizations, and ultimately, death," said Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa during a press conference on Monday.
While she believes that "vaccination can powerfully mitigate the risks of a fourth wave," de Villa and many other doctors warn that Toronto's not quite at the point yet where things can reopen without deadly consequences.
"It is crystal clear that public health measures aimed at decreasing mobility and interpersonal contact are by far the most important tool we have currently to prevent transmission of COVID-19," reads a letter addressed to Premier Ford from the Association of Local Public Health Agencies.
"Their effectiveness is not up for debate after three waves of declines and resurgences occurred in lockstep with the intensification and relaxation of restrictions."
Ontario’s Medical Officers of Health, Boards of Health and Affiliate organizations strongly recommend a further extension of current province-wide restrictions, including the stay-at-home order, beyond planned expiry on May 20th. #COVID19 #PublicHealthLeaders pic.twitter.com/9gv2y2yX0b— alPHa (@PHAgencies) May 8, 2021
The alPHa letter, published Friday, urges the Ford government to keep current provincewide shutdown rules in place "until we have achieved a critical mass of people who are fully vaccinated."
"Any move to relax restrictions now would without a doubt reverse the modest downward trends we have observed over the past two weeks," it states.
Dr. Peter Juni, director of Ontario's own COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said similarly this weekend that the province must "be prudent" in order to avoid a fourth wave, and that any missteps could cause case numbers to spike right back up again.
Even Ford himself has mentioned the threat of a fourth wave in relation to border restrictions, which he's been asking the federal government to tighten up for weeks.
"More can and must be done. We cannot sit back and watch the fourth wave of COVID-19 walk across our border," reads a quote from Ford as written on a PC Party fundraising campaign poster.
Many Ontario residents are expressing support on Twitter for the notion of extending stay-at-home orders to prevent a deadly fourth wave. If Elliott's comments on Monday are any indication, the government will be proceeding with more caution than ever this time around.
"We're looking at things daily, but what I do know is that we're going to have to see our numbers go down," said the health minister of new daily cases on Monday.
"They're under 3,000 today, which is encouraging, and the numbers in intensive care are at 828. But that's still very high, and we need to see them go down more before we can change the stay-at-home order."
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