Over a month since the last time he appeared in front of reporters, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario Dr. Kieran Moore returned to the media studio at Queen’s Park to respond to the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. While he proposed no new mandates, there was a potential for the reconsideration of lifting future mandates at the end of the month, plus the expansion of therapeutics.
“It is clear that we are in the sixth wave of this pandemic driven by the BA.2 variant. In the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in the percent positivity and upward trends in wastewater surveillance and a rise in hospitalizations,” Moore explained. “These trends are likely to continue for the next several weeks, but there are actions that we can take to help manage the impact of this wave.”
How do we manage this wave? Moore gave his “strong recommendation” to keep wearing a fitted three-layer mask in all public indoor settings, especially in healthcare and congregate settings, and to keep wearing a mask up to five days after your isolation period is over if you catch COVID. Having said that, mask mandates are not coming back, but Moore added that this may change once we come back around to winter again.
“If a new variant of concern emerges a threat to our health care system or potentially during the winter months when COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again,” the CMOH explained.
Moore said that it’s also important to keep up with your vaccination schedule, and that vaccines are still the most valuable tool in fighting COVID. Beyond that, the Government of Ontario announced that they were making some other tools available on Monday.
Now, people aged 18 and over who are immunocompromised, people 70 and over, people over 60 with less than three vaccine doses, and anyone 18 and over with less than three doses and at least one risk condition will now be eligible for a PCR test and be assessed for antiviral treatments like Paxlovid.
“Individuals who are part of high risk groups and with COVID-19 should immediately seek testing and care by their contacting their health care provider or visiting one of the many clinical assessment centres across Ontario,” Moore said. “Even if you don’t have symptoms, talk to your primary care provider in advance to see if the treatment is right for you in the event that you get sick, and have a plan.”
In terms of having a plan to help the province make it through this latest COVID wave, the Queen’s Park press core was savage in their appraisal of Moore’s absence from the public stage since March 9. In recent days, many reporters have discussed on social media their failures in being able to secure an interview with Moore, or reach him for comment.
“If I have new messaging of risk to any of the citizens of Ontario, I absolutely will come out,” Moore said on the defense. “We share all of our key messaging, and we did this last week with all of our local public health agencies, all of our health system leaders, as well as our hospital leadership on the fourth dose, second booster strategy as well as the oral antiviral.
“It’s the responsibility of all of our health care leaders across Ontario to disseminate this information at a community level, and I’m happy to come out on a more regular basis if that message needs to be promoted,” Moore added.
In one apparent nod to the current COVID landscape, Moore said that his team is presently reconsidering the proposed lifting of all remaining mandates at the end of April.
“We think this wave is not going to be settling until the middle or end of May, and as a result, we’re looking at an extension for all of those high-risk facilities – anyone in those congregate settings, shelters, retirement homes, long-term care homes and transit – we’re absolutely considering maintaining [mandates],” Moore said. “Our team’s drafting it, we will present that to government, and the government will make the final decision. But to me that makes tremendous sense to maintain it.”
On Monday, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health registered a big jump in new cases over the weekend, with 222, and that brings the current number of known active cases in the region back up to 686, about half of which are in Guelph alone. Meanwhile, there were 1,090 COVID-19 cases in Ontario hospitals on Monday, an increase from 977 on Sunday.