The fourth wave of the pandemic in Ontario is receding, and keeping some health measures in place while vaccinating children will keep it under control, the province's COVID-19 science advisory table said Friday.
New data and modelling from the group shows that cases are declining in 26 of Ontario's 34 public health units and that the burden on hospitals and intensive care units remains stable. The average provincewide test positivity rate is also ticking downward.
The table said that case counts are expected to remain stable heading into winter as long as some basic measures remain in place. Things like masking, vaccine certificates and improvements to ventilation in indoor settings will help to ensure the pandemic continues to wane, the group said.
The updated forecast comes as Premier Doug Ford is set to lift capacity limits for venues like restaurants, bars and gyms, where vaccination is required for entry.
Ford is scheduled to hold a 2 p.m. news conference at Queen's Park. You can watch it live here.
The expected announcement is not directly addressed in the science table's latest report, but the group suggests that new cases will keep steady even with more social contacts among Ontarians. Even the worst-case scenario forecasted by the table is within a substantially smaller range than its last prediction from late summer.
That said, real world data cautions that completely scrapping basic public health measures can help drive a renewed wave of infections, the table said.
The currently available data does not suggest immunity provided by COVID-19 vaccines is waning in the "general population," but the table said it watching the signals closely.
Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19
12 more deaths reported
Earlier Friday, Ontario reported 492 new cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 12 more people with the illness.
Today's case count is comparable to the same day last week, when Ontario logged 496 infections.
The seven-day average of daily cases remained steady at 406.
Meanwhile, the additional deaths pushed the official toll to 9,839.
Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:
New school-related cases: 95, including 84 students and 10 staff members. As of yesterday, 2 of Ontario's 4,844 public schools (roughly 0.03 per cent) was closed due to COVID-19.
Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 149; 94 needed a ventilator. According to Critical Care Services Ontario, eight more adult patients with COVID-19 were admitted to ICUs yesterday, and the seven-day average of total admissions stands at 158.
Active cases: 3,421, marking the first tick upward in active cases in almost two weeks.
Vaccinations: 25,770 doses were administered by public health units on Thursday. About 83.6 per cent of eligible Ontarians, those aged 12 and older, have now had two doses of vaccine.