Ontario’s top doctor says he expects a difficult January to be followed by a “better February and March” as the current Omicron wave reaches a peak within the next few weeks.
Dr. Kieran Moore says he hopes to have more clarity next week if COVID-19 is plateauing, and while there are some encouraging signs he stopped short of guaranteeing the province will roll back restrictions on January 26.
“This winter has been tough and we are not yet out of the woods,” said Moore. “I’m looking for a plateau and a peak and then we want to slowly and cautiously remove public health measures so that we don’t have a rebound in cases coming into our hospital system.”
“We should start to see the benefit of the sacrifices Ontarians have made next week, (and) early in the week we should be able to get clarity on where we are at. As soon as we have clarity we want to inform business communities, so I can’t guarantee the 26th.”
When it comes to lifting the current restrictions, Moore said it would be a phased and staged approach rather than a sudden reopening.
“A sudden reopening, I’d be very worried about another wave of Omicron,” explained Moore. “We anticipate reopening in a staged and phased manner, usually over a two week period gives us clarity over how we’re doing as we further open up areas of the economy.”
Moore added that which businesses and/or settings reopens first will be up to government officials.
Moore says immunocompromised Ontarians, such as transplant patients, will be able to get their fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Jan. 14, provided it has been at least 84 days since their third dose. He noted that only 64 per cent of organ transplant recipients have received their third dose to date.
“We need 50 and over to get immunized, we need those that are immunocompromised, that are transplant patients as well as our children to get their first and their second doses. All of that will help us get through this quicker so that we can get back to our new normal of graded and cautious reopening heading into the spring,” he said.
Provincial data show 82 per cent of Ontarians aged five and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 88 per cent have at least one dose.
When it comes to the relatively high numbers of COVID-19 deaths this month – double digit totals each day since Jan. 4, including two days with more than 40 new deaths reported, Dr. Moore says they hope to start seeing documentation whether deaths were caused by or associated with the virus.
The province recently started reporting whether COVID-19 hospitalizations were people admitted “for” the virus or “with” the virus. Moore said he wants to see that type of mortality data, too.
“It may be that some of these deaths are incidentally correlated to COVID-19,” Moore said.
He has recently met with the chief coroner’s office and will be sending memos to hospitals “to ensure that death is documented appropriately, if it’s associated with or caused by COVID-19, to further clarify, for the public, the cause of death.”
Moore said health officials are trying to understand what is behind the large numbers, but that many deaths will be due to the previous wave of Delta, a COVID-19 variant with a higher virulence, and some will be attributed to Omicron – shown to be less severe – because there are so many more cases.
-With files from The Canadian Press