Ontario’s top doctor to provide COVID-19 update for first time in more than 4 weeks

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, is set to provide an update today on how the province is managing COVID-19 and expanding access to antivirals. 

The news conference, which will be the first Moore has held since early March, comes on the heels of a report by Public Health Ontario that shows COVID-19 cases, test positivity rates and hospitalizations have gone up since March 21, when the province ended mandatory masking in most indoor spaces.

Moore is set to speak at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. You’ll be able to watch it live in this story.

“The full impact of lifting masking and other measures may not yet be observable, given limited PCR testing eligibility and lagging hospitalization data,” the report says.

It proposes bringing back indoor masking and extending masking mandates in high-risk settings as possible elements of a “layered” strategy to mitigate a surge in cases.

The province has set April 27 as the date it plans to eliminate all remaining COVID-19 restrictions including masking in long-term care homes, retirement homes, health-care settings, jails, shelters, congregate living settings and on public transit.

A report by Public Health Ontario which shows COVID-19 cases, test positivity rates and hospitalizations have gone up since March 21, when the province ended mandatory masking in most indoor spaces, proposes re-introducing some measures to mitigate the surge in cases. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The report also warns that the number of Ontario children experiencing severe illness from COVID-19 is likely to increase given the increased transmissibility of the BA.2 subvariant of the virus, the removal of public health measures and the limited vaccine eligibility and two-dose coverage in those under the age of 12.

The BA.2 subvariant is now the dominant strain in the latest wave of the pandemic, the document says. The proportion of samples identified as BA.2 rose from 12.3 per cent the week of Feb. 13 to 54 per cent the week of March 13, it says.

Daily cases hovering around 100,000 to 120,000

Meanwhile, wastewater surveillance suggests cases have been on the rise since mid to late March.

The scientific director of Ontario’s panel of COVID-19 advisers has said the latest wastewater data suggests daily case counts for the virus are hovering around 100,000 to 120,000.

Dr. Peter Jüni, who heads the science table, said last week it’s unclear how long this wave of the pandemic will last, since limits on testing make it difficult to know how many people have been infected and have some immunity.

Hospitalizations were up 40 per cent last week from the week before, though they dropped significantly over the weekend. However, it’s important to note that upwards of 10 per cent of hospitals do not report their data on weekends.

Asked several times why Moore has not held a news conference in recent weeks as the province sees climbing case counts and hospitalizations, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the rise in cases was anticipated as the province reopened, and officials will continue to follow Moore’s advice.

“Dr. Moore has recommended that masks don’t need to be worn except in certain circumstances in hospitals, in long term care homes and other congregate settings where it’s necessary for the protection of people,” Elliott said at the legislature Thursday.

“Should Dr. Moore change his views in the coming days we will be making those changes as necessary, but as for wearing masks it is something that is voluntary, although most people are choosing to wear masks in crowded public spaces and we anticipate they will continue to do so.”

Last week, the province expanded eligibility for fourth doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to those 60 and older, as well as Indigenous residents and adult members of their household.

Fourth doses were already available to long-term care and retirement home residents and immunocompromised people in Ontario.

1,090 hospitalizations reported

Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting 1,090 people in hospital with COVID-19 Monday, up from 977 the day before and 857 at this time last week.

Of that number, 184 patients are in intensive care, up from 173 a day earlier and 168 a week ago. Eighty-two patients are on ventilators due to the virus.

The province reported another 2,401 COVID-19 cases through limited PCR testing, with 12,149 tests completed the day before. 

​The test positivity rate sits at 17.6 per cent.

Three more deaths linked to the virus were also reported, pushing the total death toll in the province to 12,566.

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