omicron vaccine

Ontario’s chief medical officer on Omicron and what’s to come

Although many were expecting a return to some form of restrictions or lockdown after it was announced that Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, was to deliver an update on the Omicron variant this afternoon, it turned out somewhat different than expected.

According to most estimates, Omicron, first discovered in South Africa a short time ago, will become the dominant variant in the province as early as the weekend due to its vastly increased transmissibility.

Yes, there are new measures in place, but only at long-term care homes and similar facilities such as no entry for the unvaccinated, and other limits on visiting. And, it seems, the provincial government’s attention at the moment is squarely on making sure the most vulnerable members of our community are safe, and that vaccinations including third-dose boosters are increased dramatically. As Moore noted, in just a few days, the number of vaccines went from 37,000 per day to 95,000 yesterday.

“This is precautionary measures put in place to best protect the most vulnerable members of our community, iI think that’s been prudent and proactive,” he said, during a press conference at 3 p.m. on Dec. 14. “And we have built capacity to increase the number of people we can vaccinate in a very short period of time in Ontario.”

Moore also addressed many of the proverbial elephants in the room.

Yes, there is very early evidence to suggest Omicron is less severe than other variants, but it is still too early to do anything but hope. And, as Moore said, “Hoping is not a strategy.”

“We are not taking anything for granted with this rapidly spreading virus,” he added.

Should Ontario families cancel holiday gatherings, or toss those Leafs tickets in the trash? Not yet, but Moore is currently relying on Ontarians to make the right decisions given their own personal health situations. He added that discussions are underway and measures could be coming.

Although Moore didn’t come right out and say it, some are suggesting it for him.

“I do believe there will be a discussion in coming days,” he said, “over what additional measures we may need, if any, to best protect Ontarians from omicron.”

He said, he wanted to keep schools open, and that school boards and the province have worked hard to keep them safe, upping the ventilation and pushing hard to get the 5-to-11-year-olds vaccinated as soon as possible. The first dose rate for that group sits at 35% currently.

“It is my hope to keep schools open as long as we can. First to open, last to close,” he said. “We are reviewing every protocol we have to keep our schools safe even in the face of Omicron.. From a medical standpoint, it is safe, and safer than (kids) being out in the community (at movie theatres, etc.). We’ve done tremendous work to improve ventilation and I think we can do more in the face of Omicron to continue to keep them safe.”

He also reiterated the importance of the basics: good hand hygiene, physical distancing, appropriately fitting mask. and when getting together limiting the total number of social contacts.”

Today, Ontario is reporting 1,429 new cases of COVID-19 with 385 hospitalizations and 162 in the ICU. There are 85.8% of eligible Ontarians who have received a first vaccine dose, 80.9% have received two doses.

Article exclusive to Streets Of Toronto