Toronto's medical officer of health says city eventually needs to 'learn to live with' COVID-19

·3 min read
Recreational centres like indoor swimming pools will be reopening on Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)
Recreational centres like indoor swimming pools will be reopening on Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said Friday that public health officials increasingly believe that COVID-19 will become endemic and that there will be a level of infection that Torontonians will have to learn to live with.

"Increasingly, public health officials the world over are recognizing that, given the current circumstances and given the presence of variants like Omicron and the significant transmissibility that they bring with them, that we are likely to find ourselves in a situation where we are learning how to live with COVID," she said.

She said public health authorities may begin managing COVID-19 like the spread of influenza every winter.

"Some flu seasons are worse than others. We know it has impact on our healthcare system, and yes, it does make a number of people sick, unfortunately, and yes, unfortunately some people do lose their lives to it," she said.

"However, we have treatments available, we have vaccines available to help protect us. And we find ways of balancing other activities of life along with the control measures that are there in place to better mitigate the negative impacts associated with influenza."

De Villa made those remarks while responding to a question at a press conference about similar comments made by Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore on Thursday. He said that with the added protection of vaccines, particularly with third doses, people will have to "learn to live with this virus."

"In the face of Omicron, I absolutely think we have to start to understand we have to learn to live with this virus and we've let our lives be controlled for the last two years in a significant amount of fear and now we're going to have to change some of that thinking," Moore said.

WATCH | Ontario's top doctor says people must learn to live with the virus:

Indications suggest spread of COVID-19 is declining: De Villa

There were 575 people hospitalized and 93 people in ICU due to COVID-19 on Friday in Toronto, according to De Villa.

She said the city has seen a decrease in the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases, from 1,414 cases on Jan. 19 to 871 cases on Jan. 25, and that the positivity rate from COVID-19 tests has also dropped from 20.3 per cent to 16.6 per cent as of the end of last week.

Those numbers aren't totally representative considering the province has vastly restricted access to publicly-funded PCR testing, but de Villa said there are other indications that the spread of the virus is slowing, such as a decline in the number of active outbreaks in institutions and congregate settings.

Toronto will also begin releasing wastewater surveillance data on COVID-19 to the public, which can help illustrate the spread of the virus without the need for testing. A report on wastewater data will be released every Wednesday, according to De Villa.

The latest analysis showed that a recent decline in the levels of COVID-19 detected at Toronto's wastewater treatment plants is "now showing signs of slowing or plateauing," De Villa said.

"Taken all together, they are certainly encouraging signs."

Katherine Holland/CBC
Katherine Holland/CBC

Toronto recreational services reopening

Ontario will begin easing COVID-19 public health restrictions this Monday, with a plan to lift most remaining measures by mid-March.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said that community recreation facilities for drop-in programs and rentals will be reopening on Monday, including community recreation centres and arenas, fitness centres and classes, indoor pools, indoor skating rinks, and arts and sport drop-in programs.

There will be capacity restrictions of 50 per cent in place and proof of vaccination will be required for people aged 12 and older.

Allan Gardens Park and Centennial Park Conservatories will also be reopening to the public on Monday, and Riverdale Farm and High Park Zoo will continue to be open with capacity limits in place, he said.

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