High immunization rates coupled with a continuing steady decline in cases will allow Ontario to move into Step 3 and lift more COVID-19 restrictions by mid-July, according to Ontario’s new top doctor.
Health officials are closely watching the Waterloo area, which is experiencing a COVID-19 resurgence, and hoping what’s happening there doesn’t result in a wider spread of the Delta variant through southwestern Ontario.
“We have to really go slow and steady in the face of the Delta strain becoming the dominant strain in Ontario,” Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s incoming Chief Medical Officer of Health, said at a news conference Thursday.
“What will get us through this is increasing our immunization rates. That is our prevention strategy against all strains circulating in Ontario at present.”
It was Dr. David Williams’ final press conference as Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario before he retires at the end of this month. Moore will take over the position on June 26.
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Personal care businesses and malls will be allowed to reopen in Step 2. Capacity limits at patios and retail businesses will also increase.
Indoor gatherings with non-household members will also be allowed in Toronto for the first time last fall. But the top doctors couldn’t clarify whether Ontarians are allowed to invite up to five people over who don’t live in the home, or whether the maximum number of people allowed at any private indoor gathering is five.
The top doctors said they want to see what impact loosening restrictions in Step 2 has on case rates before moving to Step 3. The reopening plan has 21-day buffers between step transitions, but the province moved into both Step 1 and Step 2 a couple of days earlier than planned.
Both Williams and Moore’s tones were optimistic Thursday as they outlined declining COVID-19 case numbers. There were 847 new cases discovered in Ontario over the past seven days, the first time in a long time that number has been below 1,000, Williams said.
The seven-day average for new cases now sits at 305 per day, down from 343 last week.
“We’ve gone through many things together. Good moments and challenging moments,” Williams said. “We’re in a good moment coming down.”