A near-normal summer is possible, says COVID-19 Science Table

A chart showing COVID-19 vaccination rates by age group is shown on May 20, 2021. Chart provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Encouraging trends in Ontario with the COVID-19 pandemic could mean a return to some form of normal this summer.

An update on pandemic modelling was presented Thursday afternoon at Queens Park. According to the modelling, public health officials are getting a handle on pandemic control, as shown by declines in daily cases, hospitalizations, and positive COVID-19 tests.

The modelling also encourages Ontarians to do something they have been restricted from doing much of the spring, get outside.

“Our picture today looks different,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Science Table. “The direction of the pandemic has turned, and if we’re careful and cautious, we can maintain this momentum, and it’s that momentum that gets us to a good summer.”

According to the data, the “hotspot” strategy of vaccinating people living in postal codes with high case rates is working. Between May 2 and May 15, case rates dropped in 26 of Ontario’s 34 public health units, with Peel and Toronto showing the most dramatic declines.

This graph shows trends in the case rate per capita between May 2 and May 15, 2021. Graph provided by Ontario Ministry of Health.

This graph shows trends in the case rate per capita between May 2 and May 15, 2021. Graph provided by Ontario Ministry of Health.

However, Brown pointed out that there are still challenges. Patient capacity in hospitals is still an issue which has resulted in patients transferred between health units. While the number of patients in intensive care has dropped province wide, the drop has been slow, with a projection of less than 500 ICU patients throughout Ontario by the middle of June.

The modelling also suggests a potential reopening of Ontario schools in June. Brown said a slight increase of cases may take place if schools reopen after June 2, but any increase would be “manageable.”

With the weather warming up, the modelling also suggested that people should engage in outdoor activities, such as tennis, basketball, local camping with household members, and playing music outdoors, though physical distancing and mask use are still key to keeping the case rates down.

Brown also said people should refrain from any activities that involve travelling long distances, sharing indoor amenities, or large gatherings with people outside households.

Premier Doug Ford was scheduled to provide an update on reopening later Thursday afternoon.