TORONTO — Ontario’s rising COVID-19 infection curve is a continuation of the fourth wave that started earlier in September, and not the start of a fifth wave, the province’s top doctor said Thursday as he warned that the upward trend would continue.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said case counts never got back to a low level despite a slight dip before steadily increasing again in late October.
“We never declared the fourth wave over, this is simply a continuance,” Moore told reporters.
“Sadly, all modelling would predict this would slowly, steadily rise and increase over the coming months, including January and February.”
He said higher case counts were anticipated as people moved indoors in the cold weather, and asked people to remain cautious until the weather warms up in the spring and more people become eligible for third vaccine doses to protect against the “formidable foe” of COVID-19.
“It just continues to want to spread and it won’t slow down again until we get outdoors in the springtime,” he said. “We do have a time period over the next four months that we’ll have to continue to be very, very vigilant.”
Ontario reported 748 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and five more virus-related deaths as the seven-day average for infections climbed to 692.
Some health units in the province’s north and southwest have been responding to local case surges and Moore said the province was working on sending resources to help.
Moore, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott have all said the province will respond locally to COVID-19 surges and not reintroduce public health measures across the whole province.
Experts have linked the late-October rise in cases in part to the lifting of capacity limits in some indoor spaces, and some health units have since reintroduced those measures.
On Thursday, Moore said the province is also monitoring acute care capacity in hospitals.
The top medical executive for Ontario Health, which oversees the provincial health system, told The Canadian Press this week that the province can handle between 250 and 300 intensive care COVID-19 patients before other services like surgeries would have to be cancelled.
One way to stay safe this holiday season? Get vaccinated: Dr. Moore
Ontario’s top doctor also took time to issue guidance exactly one month until Christmas and one of those precautions includes getting a shot.
“COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to help protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the spread of COVID-19,” Moore wrote. “T ake the time this holiday season to get your first or second dose of the vaccine if you haven’t already, or your booster dose if eligible.”
A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott says that while Moore’s advice expands on public health guidance for all Ontarians to follow — such as social gathering limits for indoor and outdoor settings — much of the direction applies to gatherings that may include unvaccinated individuals or individuals whose vaccination status is unknown.
“For example, if you attending an indoor gathering with individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or you don’t know their vaccination status, it is recommended that you wear a face covering and physically distance,” spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said in an email.
“However, a group of fully vaccinated individuals can remove their face coverings if everyone is comfortable.”
Moore’s guidance elaborates on indoor gatherings, advising people to not entertain more than 25 guests, use outdoor spaces, and keep windows open — both when possible.