Ontario should maintain some COVID-19 restrictions until at least mid-June to avoid a fourth wave in the fall, top doctors said Thursday.
People should still wear masks unless they’re outdoors and distanced, and many familiar summer activities shouldn’t go completely back to normal yet, according to the latest round of COVID-19 modelling from the Science Advisory Table.
Dr. Steini Brown, Science Table co-chair, recommended only camping close by with members of your household, and also advised wearing masks while playing close-contact sports such as basketball. Playing singles tennis is fairly safe, and masking while playing doubles tennis makes it safer.
Certain activities associated with sports and outdoor activities should also be avoided, he said. It’s not yet time to carpool, grab food afterwards, or share indoor spaces such as clubhouses or change rooms.
Brown and his colleague Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, were optimistic at their news conference Thursday about the impact vaccinations and public health measures are having. Average daily cases are down, and so are hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
The province predicts ICU admissions could decline below 500 by mid-June.
Ontario’s weekly average for test positivity has fallen to 6.4%, when only a short time ago during the peak of the third wave it was above 10%.
They want test positivity to come down below 1%, and said there’s still work to be done to finish the third wave.
The Science Table praised Ontario’s efforts to vaccinate hotspots, and added continued immunization efforts are key to enjoying a less restricted summer.
Schools predicted to reopen in early June
As cases come down, health officials are pushing for schools to reopen for the benefit of students and their working parents.
Sending students back to class could lead to a 6% to 11% increase in cases. However, they believe it’s manageable as overall case counts come down.
Vaccinating 12 to 17-year-olds could also make school reopening easier.
“Schools should be the last thing to close and the first thing to open. They have a critical role,” Brown said.
The Science Table ran modelling that predicts schools opening on either June 2 or 16, but Williams stopped short of recommending a particular day to get students back in classrooms.
“We know it’s been a tough year for everyone,” Williams said. “I would like it by June. For which day, I’ll have to be in consultation with the Ministry of Education and School Boards as well.”