Top doctor says Ontario may still be in Step 3 of reopening for at least two more months
Though we progressed out of Steps 1 and 2 of the province's reopening framework faster than anticipated, Ontario has been stuck in Step 3 for nearly two months now, though each step is only due to last for approximately 21 days.
While businesses and residents were expecting a return to "a full opening with some public health measures, if appropriate" as soon as Aug. 6, top health officials in the province determined that given key health indicators, we weren't quite ready at that point to further loosen restrictions — and still aren't.
Initially, the main benchmark was getting one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine into at least 80 per cent of eligible residents 12+ (achieved over a month ago) and having at least 75 per cent fully vaxxed (we're currently sitting at nearly 78 per cent).
Second to that is the fact that no public health unit in the province can have a vaccination rate of less than 70 per cent and that other numbers, such as daily new case counts, remain "stable," whatever the government deems that to be (the last seven days of epidemiology reports show that we've hovered between 564 and 944 new cases per day).
But, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said at the end of July that given new variants of concern, it would be most prudent to change the immunization goal from that 75 per cent number to 90 per cent — a substantial jump to help mitigate risk and strain on the healthcare system.
And, though more and more vaccine hesitant people are now rolling up their sleeves in the wake of the announcement of the province's vaccine passport program, Moore has revealed that he doesn't think we'll be hitting that target anytime soon.
Ontario's new proof of vaccination protocols is a necessary step to avoid the mass shutdowns of our economy seen previously during the pandemic & to protect Ontarians. But we need answers on lifting capacity limits and exiting step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen urgently.— Christopher Bloore (@ChrisBloore) September 1, 2021
Though he acknowledged during a press conference on Tuesday that we are making progress as far as mass vaccination is concerned, Moore called it a "slow" crawl, saying that "if we stay at this pace, to get to a high enough protection level — so over 90 per cent — could take an additional 60 days."
He added that even though vaccination appointments made in the central booking portal doubled within hours of the passport announcement, "the pace has not yet picked up enough to significantly alter the timeline for getting 90 per cent of eligible Ontarians fully vaccinated."
As of Sept. 22, residents will need to show the proof of vaccination they received from the Ministry of Health after their jabs to enter indoor spaces like bars, restaurants, movie theatres, casinos, concerts and sporting events. A standardized QR code is to follow within one month.
Ontario:— Not Ryan Imgrund (@ryan_grund) September 5, 2021
Some health units are watering down Step 3. This is bad for social peace.
We've already taken a hit by staying in Step 3. Plus, we have passports coming. Don't take away what we have left.@fordnation @celliottability @Sflecce https://t.co/ZWB4UqblGR
Whenever we do emerge from Step 3, measures such as masking, passive COVID screening and physical distancing rules will remain for the foreseeable future, though capacity and gathering limits will be nixed.
The province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, though — which is known for projecting worst-case scenarios that don't often come to fruition — is warning of inevitable lockdowns in the fall of more people don't get inoculated and if additional restrictions aren't implemented.
Premier Doug Ford, on the other hand, reassured the public mid-July that lockdowns would never be returning to Ontario.
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