Ontario’s top doctor says he is “hopeful” the risk COVID-19 poses to those in the province will be lower in March and April.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore said he hopes the province is “cresting” in terms of COVID-19 cases.
“I do hope we’re cresting and we’ll start to decelerate on the health system impact,” he said. “I do think March will be a much better month and certainly by April, we’ll be heading to that lower rate of activity in the community.”
Moore said the weather will improve, and people will be spending more time outdoors.
“I hope you’re hearing hope in my voice,” he said. “And as we head to that low and endemic rate, that’s when we review all public health measures that have been put in place.”
Moore said, though, that the measures “have to be proportionate to the risk.”
“I do see the risk going down less and less, day by day, month by month going forward,” he said.
Moore said experts will continue to monitor for new variants of the virus, and for changes in protection from the available vaccines.
Moore said he wants to “assure Ontarians” that the province has a “great laboratory system and network monitoring for any new variants in Ontario.”
“With whole genome sequencing in good partnership at the national level with the national medical lab and with the WHO to continue to monitor for any new variants that arise that we may need to change our strategy on,” he said. “But so far I am hopeful and anticipating March and April having much lower risk for all Ontarians.”
Late last month, the province announced new rules limiting who would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 PCR test.
Asked on Thursday how the province will know whether the pandemic is getting worse, Moore said there is still a “significant amount of PCR testing that’s being done across Ontario.”
“Forty thousand tests or more on a daily basis,” Moore said. “And the percentage of them being positive was averaging for seven days at 18 per cent, but today it’s 14 per cent.”
Moore said that’s “trending in the right direction.”
“So we still have that as an important surveillance signal, we still have testing for anyone hospitalized in Ontario. And that number, it today is trending in the right direction, down 371 cases admitted to hospital,” he continued. “ICU numbers are stable, the number of individuals requiring ventilation. And sadly, it’s going up a little but not accelerating rapidly.”
He said the metrics are “still very good.”
Moore said Ontarians have stayed “relatively united in adhering to all best practices” including masking and vaccination.
“Together all of those metrics inform us on a daily basis of where we’re heading and I do believe we’re cresting and have reached a peak,” he said. “So the sacrifices Ontarians have made is working, and that we can now start on the 31st to safely reopen in a balanced, proportionate, safe and cautious manner.”
Moore also told reporters that Ontarians will “have to learn to live” with the Omicron variant.
“I think we have to understand with Omicron, that we can’t eliminate this threat,” he said.
Moore said we can “reduce our risk,” but can’t “eliminate the risk in every aspect of our lives.”
“And we have to have a balanced approach as a society against this threat,” he continued.
Speaking to Global News AM 640’s John Oakley on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is taking a “cautious approach” to reopening.
Ford’s comments come just days before the province prepares to lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and gyms across Ontario.
On Monday, indoor social gathering limits are set to increase from five to 10, and restaurants will be able to reopen their dining rooms at 50 per cent capacity.
“I can’t stand this, you know, as much as everyone can’t,” Ford said. “(But) what I don’t want to see is what we’ve seen around the world, you open up and all of a sudden, you fall backwards again. We want to open up, stay open and get through this.”
Ford and Moore’s comments come as the province reported 3,645 people are now in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19.
Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, 599 are receiving care in an intensive care unit.
— with a file from The Canadian Press
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