Ontario’s latest COVID plan is cautious, smart and hopeful

Opinion Oct 22, 2021 by Star Editorial Board Toronto Star

Don’t look now, but something is going seriously right in Ontario.

More than a year and a half into the pandemic we’re all gun-shy. No one wants to declare premature victory over an insidious virus that has a nasty tendency of snapping back just when it looks we’ve gotten ahead of it.

But the very welcome fact is that a cautious approach by government and public health authorities, combined with responsible behaviour by the vast majority of Ontarians, has us at a point where COVID is under control. At least for the moment — fingers crossed, touch wood.

So the lifting of capacity limits in bars, restaurants, gyms, casinos and so on that goes into effect on Monday seems to be entirely appropriate.

This might have been another risky move by the Ford government at an earlier stage of the pandemic, but at this point it appears to be quite justified.

COVID case numbers are lower than forecast, and gently declining (the seven-day average on Friday was standing at just 406). Hospitals and particularly ICUs are coping fine. The overall vaccination level would ideally be a bit higher, but at over 83 per cent of eligible Ontarians and slowly rising there’s no reason for concern. And vaccine mandates are in place in key sectors, along with the longstanding public health measures like indoor masking.

Ontario is doing better than almost any other comparable jurisdiction right now. In short, we’re ready to open up a bit and set targets for even more relaxation of rules if things don’t go sideways.

Still, a naturally cautious province like Ontario isn’t, and shouldn’t, rush into things.

Many people will understandably breath a sigh of relief at the target dates the government announced on Friday for some big changes: Jan. 17, 2022, for starting to “gradually” lift the requirement for vaccine certificates, and March 28 of next year for doing away with masking indoors.

But how to interpret those dates? Politicians always like to be the bearers of good news, and are no doubt happy to leave the impression that we can start to count down the days until we can put vaccine “passports” and then masks in the rear-view mirror.

But the message from the public health experts is more nuanced, and not as encouraging. What they’re actually saying is those are the earliest possible dates that those moves could be made. Whether we can actually do away with certificates by mid-January and masks by the end of March will depend entirely on how the pandemic evolves.

If, for example, yet another new virulent strain of COVID emerges and sends case numbers spiralling, all bets may be off. If after the Christmas/New Year holiday period, cases soar — ditto. If it gets out of control in the rest of the world, also bad. The public health experts are saying it all depends.

But even having a possible, conditional target date for declaring an effective end to the pandemic and really starting to “live with COVID” rather than shape our collective life around defending against it, is quite something.

If — still an if — we can throw the masks away next March 28, we will have endured more than two years of the pandemic. Most people back in the spring of 2020 expected it might disrupt their lives for a few weeks, perhaps a few months at most. The possibility of an actual end after all this time seems almost too good to hope for.

In the meantime, we need to keep up the fight, and that means getting even more people vaccinated. New modelling from Ontario’s science advisory table on Friday provided even more evidence of the benefits: unvaccinated people, it said, are seven times more likely to contract symptomatic COVID. They’re 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 23 times more likely to end up in an ICU.

So getting your shots has enormous personal benefits. Not to mention the collective benefit of making it more likely that those new target dates will really mark the end of our COVID nightmare.

Ontario’s latest COVID plan is cautious, smart and hopeful

Opinion Oct 22, 2021 by Star Editorial Board Toronto Star

Don’t look now, but something is going seriously right in Ontario.

More than a year and a half into the pandemic we’re all gun-shy. No one wants to declare premature victory over an insidious virus that has a nasty tendency of snapping back just when it looks we’ve gotten ahead of it.

But the very welcome fact is that a cautious approach by government and public health authorities, combined with responsible behaviour by the vast majority of Ontarians, has us at a point where COVID is under control. At least for the moment — fingers crossed, touch wood.

So the lifting of capacity limits in bars, restaurants, gyms, casinos and so on that goes into effect on Monday seems to be entirely appropriate.

This might have been another risky move by the Ford government at an earlier stage of the pandemic, but at this point it appears to be quite justified.

COVID case numbers are lower than forecast, and gently declining (the seven-day average on Friday was standing at just 406). Hospitals and particularly ICUs are coping fine. The overall vaccination level would ideally be a bit higher, but at over 83 per cent of eligible Ontarians and slowly rising there’s no reason for concern. And vaccine mandates are in place in key sectors, along with the longstanding public health measures like indoor masking.

Ontario is doing better than almost any other comparable jurisdiction right now. In short, we’re ready to open up a bit and set targets for even more relaxation of rules if things don’t go sideways.

Still, a naturally cautious province like Ontario isn’t, and shouldn’t, rush into things.

Many people will understandably breath a sigh of relief at the target dates the government announced on Friday for some big changes: Jan. 17, 2022, for starting to “gradually” lift the requirement for vaccine certificates, and March 28 of next year for doing away with masking indoors.

But how to interpret those dates? Politicians always like to be the bearers of good news, and are no doubt happy to leave the impression that we can start to count down the days until we can put vaccine “passports” and then masks in the rear-view mirror.

But the message from the public health experts is more nuanced, and not as encouraging. What they’re actually saying is those are the earliest possible dates that those moves could be made. Whether we can actually do away with certificates by mid-January and masks by the end of March will depend entirely on how the pandemic evolves.

If, for example, yet another new virulent strain of COVID emerges and sends case numbers spiralling, all bets may be off. If after the Christmas/New Year holiday period, cases soar — ditto. If it gets out of control in the rest of the world, also bad. The public health experts are saying it all depends.

But even having a possible, conditional target date for declaring an effective end to the pandemic and really starting to “live with COVID” rather than shape our collective life around defending against it, is quite something.

If — still an if — we can throw the masks away next March 28, we will have endured more than two years of the pandemic. Most people back in the spring of 2020 expected it might disrupt their lives for a few weeks, perhaps a few months at most. The possibility of an actual end after all this time seems almost too good to hope for.

In the meantime, we need to keep up the fight, and that means getting even more people vaccinated. New modelling from Ontario’s science advisory table on Friday provided even more evidence of the benefits: unvaccinated people, it said, are seven times more likely to contract symptomatic COVID. They’re 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 23 times more likely to end up in an ICU.

So getting your shots has enormous personal benefits. Not to mention the collective benefit of making it more likely that those new target dates will really mark the end of our COVID nightmare.

Ontario’s latest COVID plan is cautious, smart and hopeful

Opinion Oct 22, 2021 by Star Editorial Board Toronto Star

Don’t look now, but something is going seriously right in Ontario.

More than a year and a half into the pandemic we’re all gun-shy. No one wants to declare premature victory over an insidious virus that has a nasty tendency of snapping back just when it looks we’ve gotten ahead of it.

But the very welcome fact is that a cautious approach by government and public health authorities, combined with responsible behaviour by the vast majority of Ontarians, has us at a point where COVID is under control. At least for the moment — fingers crossed, touch wood.

So the lifting of capacity limits in bars, restaurants, gyms, casinos and so on that goes into effect on Monday seems to be entirely appropriate.

This might have been another risky move by the Ford government at an earlier stage of the pandemic, but at this point it appears to be quite justified.

COVID case numbers are lower than forecast, and gently declining (the seven-day average on Friday was standing at just 406). Hospitals and particularly ICUs are coping fine. The overall vaccination level would ideally be a bit higher, but at over 83 per cent of eligible Ontarians and slowly rising there’s no reason for concern. And vaccine mandates are in place in key sectors, along with the longstanding public health measures like indoor masking.

Ontario is doing better than almost any other comparable jurisdiction right now. In short, we’re ready to open up a bit and set targets for even more relaxation of rules if things don’t go sideways.

Still, a naturally cautious province like Ontario isn’t, and shouldn’t, rush into things.

Many people will understandably breath a sigh of relief at the target dates the government announced on Friday for some big changes: Jan. 17, 2022, for starting to “gradually” lift the requirement for vaccine certificates, and March 28 of next year for doing away with masking indoors.

But how to interpret those dates? Politicians always like to be the bearers of good news, and are no doubt happy to leave the impression that we can start to count down the days until we can put vaccine “passports” and then masks in the rear-view mirror.

But the message from the public health experts is more nuanced, and not as encouraging. What they’re actually saying is those are the earliest possible dates that those moves could be made. Whether we can actually do away with certificates by mid-January and masks by the end of March will depend entirely on how the pandemic evolves.

If, for example, yet another new virulent strain of COVID emerges and sends case numbers spiralling, all bets may be off. If after the Christmas/New Year holiday period, cases soar — ditto. If it gets out of control in the rest of the world, also bad. The public health experts are saying it all depends.

But even having a possible, conditional target date for declaring an effective end to the pandemic and really starting to “live with COVID” rather than shape our collective life around defending against it, is quite something.

If — still an if — we can throw the masks away next March 28, we will have endured more than two years of the pandemic. Most people back in the spring of 2020 expected it might disrupt their lives for a few weeks, perhaps a few months at most. The possibility of an actual end after all this time seems almost too good to hope for.

In the meantime, we need to keep up the fight, and that means getting even more people vaccinated. New modelling from Ontario’s science advisory table on Friday provided even more evidence of the benefits: unvaccinated people, it said, are seven times more likely to contract symptomatic COVID. They’re 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 23 times more likely to end up in an ICU.

So getting your shots has enormous personal benefits. Not to mention the collective benefit of making it more likely that those new target dates will really mark the end of our COVID nightmare.