Ontario officials admit that some restrictions could return as COVID numbers increase
New daily cases of COVID-19 are once again rising in Ontario as cold weather forces everyone indoors and expanded capacity limits bring people together by the thousands
The province's rolling seven-day average is sitting at 492 as of Tuesday morning, up from 371 the week previous, with 441 new cases and three deaths reported by the Ministry of Health this morning.
This uptick may be concerning to some, especially with regions such as Sudbury experiencing full-blown outbreaks, and questions are starting to pop up about whether or not we'll go back into a lockdown.
Not necessarily, says Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director for Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, but it's possible that we'll see some recent reopening measures rolled back a bit (think tightened capacity limits for massive stadiums and concert venues.)
"We're definitely out of the honeymoon phase and back in the fourth wave," said Juni on Monday, per the Canadian Press.
Juni did note that reintroducing capacity limits could help the situation, but cautioned that "there's absolutely no need to panic" and that "our destiny is in our own hands."
The Swiss epidemiologist, who works at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital and teaches at U of T, said that individual citizens can help keep case numbers down by wearing masks indoors, avoiding crowds and working from home when possible.
Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott was asked about Juni's comments during a press conference on Tuesday, and specifically about whether or not her government's recovery plan might move at a slower pace than initially expected.
Elliott admitted that "it is potentially possible" for us to see more restrictions come into place before Ontario reopens in full.
"We do know that there are going to be increases in cases as the weather turns colder, and that has been brought into the equation when we figured out the plan in the first place, so we're going to continue to look at it," she said on Tuesday.
Elliott also stated that, while Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is looking at the numbers every single day, "we are not changing course at this point."
Should restrictions eventually come along, Elliott said that they would "primarily" be up to local medical officers of health, in consultation with the province.
"They know their areas very well, and they know where the breakouts may be happening, and they know what steps need to be taken," she said of the medical officers.
"But the steps are always taken in consultation with Dr. Moore and his team. We really see this as one team working together."
When asked on Tuesday if the City of Toronto is considering the reintroduction of capacity limits, Mayor John Tory simply explained that local officials continue to monitor the data.
"I will say with respect to Toronto in particular, if you look at the numbers that have been registered over the course of the weekend, they haven't changed very much for the worse and they remain relatively better than they were either earlier this year or a year ago," said the mayor.
"People's mobility continues to increase and they're moving about more than they did before, but not back to pre-pandemic levels. These kinds of things change ,and as we continue to adjust through large sporting events, through increased capacity that was brought in for restaurants, we're constantly monitoring these numbers on a daily basis and making sure that we do everything we can."
As of press time, more than 85 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 had recieved two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, and are considered fully vaccinated.
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