Ontario should be prepared to reintroduce masks and vax passports experts say
Just as Ontario gets ready to ditch mask requirements for many public settings, experts are starting to see a slight increase in cases m.
The March 17 update from the Ontario Science Table is seeing COVID-19 cases increase rather than decline as they had been doing the last few weeks.
Wastewater treatment testing shows the curve trending up for the province but there is considerable variation in different regions. The Toronto area only has a slight upward trend but the eastern parts of the province have a sharp incline.
The Science Table expects hospitalizations to increase as restrictions are lifted and people's behaviour starts to change but there are things people can do.
"COVID-19 transmission, which drives hospital occupancy, can be reduced by wearing high quality masks, full vaccination and not increasing contacts," the Science Table notes.
Just over a week ago Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore reported hopeful trends and the province ended the requirement to wear masks in most settings as of March 21.
Vaccine passport requirements were ditched on March 1.
But the Science Table recommends the Province of Ontario be "prepared to renew vaccine certificates requiring a recent booster dose for high-risk settings if needed" and "reintroduce mask mandates if needed."
There is uncertainty around current community levels of immunity and the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant.
But a third dose and fourth (for those eligible) of the vaccine will decrease the risk of ending up in intensive care.
The Science Table also suggests the continued improvement of ventilation and air filtration in public indoor spaces, provide rapid testing and treatment with a focus on equity, and maintain protective measures that are appropriate for the general health and wellbeing of those living and working in congregate care settings such as long-term care.
There is some good news; While the expectation is that hospital and ICU occupancy will increase over the next few weeks, it will be less than in January 2022.
"The extent of this increase, and of a person's risk of contracting COVID-19, will depend on the number of close contacts (especially indoors without masking), vaccination status, and the spread of the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant," the Science Table notes.
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