Ontario continues to be caught firmly within the grasp of the second wave of COVID-19 and continued discipline is needed in the weeks ahead to combat this evolving virus. While evidence is beginning to show that Ontario is slowly flattening the curve, serious risks remain.
New, highly contagious variants are circulating in the province, vaccination roll out continues to be delayed and the health care system and its staff are operating under significant stress. More than 20 per cent of open intensive care unit (ICU) beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, and more than half of ICUs across the province are full or have only one or two beds left. With new variants being detected across the province, the province’s finite health care capacity remains at risk, particularly if we let our guard down too quickly. As noted last week by Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme: ‘The rain has eased, but the sun is not out yet.’
In determining whether or not it is safe to remove the Stay-at-Home order on February 16 for 28 public health units or February 22 for Toronto, Peel and York, the province must carefully review public health evidence and err on the side of caution. Currently, 21 of 34 public health units (PHUs) have at least one of the following three indicators: more than 40 cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate of at least 2.5 per cent, or a reproduction number that’s 1.2 or greater. Returning to piecemeal, PHU by PHU decision-making will result only in Ontario losing the hard-fought gains we have made over the past several weeks.
While the virus is abating in a handful of PHUs, the vast majority of the province remains at risk. Please continue to stay home where possible, avoid unnecessary gatherings, wear a mask indoors and outdoors, wash hands frequently, and maintain physical distancing. These measures have been essential to preventing unnecessary death and suffering, flattening the curve and to protecting the province’s finite health system capacity.” says Anthony Dale, President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association