Ontario’s COVID-19 case counts expected to remain stable as long as public health measures are not lifted

TORONTO — Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are expected to remain stable over the next month despite an increase in social contacts, newly released modelling shows, but only if public health measures are not lifted.

The new data was released by the province’s Science Advisory Table late Friday morning.

In the presentation, officials say that COVID-19 cases are declining in most public health units across Ontario as a result of vaccinations and continued public health measures.

The modelling suggests that even with “some increase in contacts between individuals,” Ontario could see about 500 new COVID-19 cases a day in November. That number increases to a little over 600 daily infections with a “substantial increase in contacts.”

Officials did not specify what a substantial increase in contacts means, but noted that even in that scenario, occupancy in Ontario’s intensive care units would remain stable with fewer than 200 patients.

The modelling banks on public health measures—such as masking, vaccine certificates, symptom screening and ventilation—remaining in place. Officials warn that in Nordic countries that have lifted public health measures, there was an increase in daily infections.

“Lifting public health measures can drive a new wave, even with strong vaccine coverage,” the modelling says.

Later on Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to release the province’s long-term COVID-19 reopening plan. CTV News Toronto learned on Thursday that capacity restrictions for restaurants and gyms in Ontario could be lifted next Monday. Multiple sources said that Ford’s cabinet also discussed when to dial back mandatory masking policies in public settings.

If Ontarians do not change their social behavior, do not increase their contacts and there is no change in public health measures, the daily COVID-19 case count could drop to about 200.

The last time officials presented COVID-19 modelling data was in early September, when they said the province was facing a “substantial” fourth wave that could see October’s daily case counts reach 9,000 in the worst-case scenario.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ONTARIO’S VACCINATION PLAN?

The science table says that unvaccinated individuals have a seven-fold higher risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 than someone who has received both doses. They also have a 17-fold higher risk of being hospitalized and a 23-fold higher risk of being admitted into intensive care compared to fully vaccinated individuals.

Currently, only people aged 12 and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but with news that Pfizer-BioNTech has asked Health Canada to review doses for children aged five to 11 years old, public health units are starting to develop their own campaigns to encourage vaccination in that demographic.

The science table, for its part, suggests public health units adopt “smart, tailored strategies” to “set the course for a strong immunization program in children.”

This includes hosting clinics at schools or other familiar locations for children, encouraging healthcare providers to engage with parents and kids, ensure reminders for second doses and create information campaigns within the community.

“Information is not enough and the source matters,” the modelling suggests.

Officials also warn against a “one-size-fits-all” approach and to take special consideration for reaching racialized communities.

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