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COVID modelling shows considerable improvement, reopening schools may be 'manageable'

Last Updated May 20, 2021 at 2:58 pm EDT

There is hope.

Ontario’s latest round of COVID-19 modelling is painting an optimistic picture as COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalization rates improve across the board with vaccinations greatly bettering conditions across the province.

The modelling was presented by lead Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, who says the control of the pandemic is growing in large part due to the efforts of Ontarians and public health measures.

As a result of a decrease in COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions, only a few of Ontario’s 34 public-health units are showing a higher rate of transmission this week.

“The direction of the pandemic has turned,” said Dr. Brown, co-chair of the advisory table.

“If we’re careful and cautious, we can maintain this momentum. And this momentum is what gets us to a good summer.”

Brown says both maintaining progress with vaccinations (around 100,000 to 150,000 per day is key) and these public health measures remaining in place through June will allow for a better summer in almost every aspect.

In addition, Ontario’s latest modelling mentions schools might be able to reopen for in-person learning and while that may increase COVID-19 case counts, this may be manageable as long as the province continues on the right path forward.


Latest modelling summary: 

The modelling notes that if schools were to reopen, they project it would lead to a 6 to 11 percent increase in new daily COVID-19 cases.

With Premier Doug Ford expected to announce Ontario’s reopening plan today, it’s unclear if schools will be mentioned.

In a best-case scenario with Ontario administering 130,000 vaccine doses per day, public health measures in place, and a partial reopening by June 16, the province could see well below 1,000 new daily infections by June 30.

In comparison, with a partial reopening of the province on June 2 and 130,000 vaccine shots administer a day, the modelling projects below 1,000 new cases a day by the end of June.

In a worst-case scenario, new daily cases could top out at 2,000 per day by June 30.

Ontario’s current stay-at-home order is set to expire on June 2.

Ford’s government will likely allow for the resumption of outdoor activities, including but not limited to golf courses and tennis courts reopening as early as this weekend.

The group, which has criticized the government’s closure of outdoor recreational facilities, specifically highlights that activities held in outdoor settings are safe and therefore strongly encouraged.

“There are byproducts to avoid when engaging in outdoor activities,” Brown noted.

“You don’t want to travel to other regions. This will increase the spread of the disease. You don’t want to go to crowded places … you don’t want to carpool with people from outside of your household.”

Brown says that residents do not need to wear a mask while outdoors and maintaining a physical distance of at least two metres apart. In contrast, a mask is needed outside if physical distancing is not in place.

They still encourage everyone to wear a mask while inside.

More COVID-19 data slides (outdoor activities): 

The Science Advisory Table says indoor dining should be avoided in the meantime, as well as sharing food and drinks with others. It’s also discouraged to visit crowded places and to carpool with others.

Travelling within regions is also not recommended.

Perhaps one of the biggest positive takeaways from this round of modelling is the province’s reach in vaccinating COVID-19 hotspots.

The data shows over 70 percent of Ontarians between the ages of 60 and 80-plus (per 100 population) have received at least one vaccine dose as of May 17.

This includes those at the highest and lowest risk of infection as Dr. Brown says continued vaccination efforts are the key to a good summer.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch commended the province’s progress thus far.

“Ontario should be proud of this (and continue this push),” said Bogoch on Twitter.

In the last round of modelling released in late April, the province projected a best-case scenario of 1,500 daily COVID-19 cases by mid-June and topping out at 2,000 new cases per day by July.

With moderate measures and 100,000 vaccinations administered on a daily basis, they said at the time the province could see just under 3,000 cases by early June with a potential increase to 5,000 new infections by mid-July.

With weak or minimal health restrictions, cases could increase to 6,000 per day by late May into June topping out at around 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day by July 1.

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