TORONTO, Canada — The Ontario government, in consultation with the chief medical officer of health, is pausing the lifting of capacity limits in remaining higher-risk settings as outlined in A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term. This is being done out of an abundance of caution as the province monitors public health trends.
The phased and cautious approach to Ontario’s safe reopening includes ongoing monitoring and assessment of key public health and health care indicators. While Ontario’s hospital and intensive care capacity remains stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country, certain public health trends, including the effective reproduction number and percent positivity have increased slightly over the past week.
An increase in cases was always expected as more people move indoors due to the colder weather and as the province eased measures. However, out of an abundance of caution, existing capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required will remain in place to ensure the province has the required time to better understand any potential impact on hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
These higher-risk settings include:
- Food or drink establishments with dance facilities such as night clubs and wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing;
- Strip clubs; and
- Sex clubs and bathhouses.
The government and the chief medical officer of health will continue to monitor the data for the next 28 days to determine when it is safe to lift capacity limits in these settings.
“Throughout the pandemic our government has taken a cautious approach to reopening, ensuring our hospital capacity remains stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country,” said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health. “To protect our hard-fought progress and ensure we can continue to manage COVID-19 for the long-term, more time is needed before we can take the next step forward in our reopening plan.”
Ontario’s cautious approach is working, with weekly cases incidence rates still well below the national average and the province tracking below the lower range scenario for ICU projections outlined by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table on October 22, 2021. However, the province has continued to be guided by the evidence, ensuring that key indicators continue to be assessed through each milestone of its plan to gradually lift public health and workplace safety measures.
“While Ontario has continued to make progress as a result of its safe and cautious approach to reopening, it is necessary to make this deliberate pause as we approach the winter holidays where more people will begin gathering indoors and where students will be returning to in-class learning in January after celebrating with friends and family,” said Dr Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health. “Over the coming weeks and months, we need to stay the course on reaching those who have not yet been vaccinated, follow public health and workplace safety measures, and continue to remain vigilant in order to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.”
Ontarians are urged to remain vigilant and continue following public health and workplace safety measures in place and to get vaccinated if they have not done so already. Achieving the highest vaccination rates possible is key to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and significant surges in cases. Responses will continue to be tailored to local context, with the ultimate goal of limiting disruption to people and businesses across the province.