Ontario’s top doctor is set to provide an update on COVID-19 in the province Monday for the first time since early March, as a report suggests several pandemic indicators have been on the rise since the province lifted its masking mandate.
Dr. Kieran Moore is also expected to discuss access to antiviral treatment in a briefing scheduled for 1 pm
The update comes on the heels of a report by Public Health Ontario that shows COVID-19 cases, test positivity rates and hospitalizations have gone up since March 21, when the province ended mandatory masking in most indoor spaces.
“The full impact of lifting masking and other measures may not yet be observable, given limited PCR testing eligibility and lagging hospitalization data,” the report says.
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It proposes bringing back indoor masking and extending masking mandates in high-risk settings as possible elements of a “layered” strategy to mitigate a surge in cases.
The province has set April 27 as the date it plans to eliminate all remaining COVID-19 restrictions including masking in long-term care homes, retirement homes, health-care settings, jails, shelters, congregate living settings and on public transit.
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The report also warns that the number of Ontario children experiencing severe illness from COVID-19 is likely to increase given the increased transmissibility of the BA.2 subvariant of the virus, the removal of public health measures and the limited vaccine eligibility and two-dose coverage in those under the age of 12.
The BA.2 subvariant is now the dominant strain in the latest wave of the pandemic, the document says. The proportion of samples identified as BA.2 rose from 12.3 per cent the week of Feb. 13 to 54 per cent the week of March 13, it says.
Meanwhile, wastewater surveillance suggests cases have been on the rise since mid- to late March.
The scientific director of Ontario’s panel of COVID-19 advisers has said the latest wastewater data suggest daily cases are around 100,000 to 120,000.
Dr. Peter Juni said last week it’s unclear how long this wave of the pandemic will last since limits on testing make it difficult to know how many people have been infected and have some immunity.
COVID-19 hospitalizations were up 40 per cent last week from the previous one, though they dropped significantly over the weekend.
Last week, the province expanded eligibility for fourth doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to those 60 and older, as well as Indigenous residents and adult members of their households.
Fourth doses were already available to long-term care and retirement home residents and immunocompromised people in Ontario.
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