Other regions in Ontario may revert to modified Stage 2, top official suggests

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TORONTO — Ontario’s top health officials will meet to decide whether additional regions need to revert to a modified version of Stage 2.

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Wednesday at Queen’s Park that the public health measures team will meet later this week. 

“They will be considering the data for all the health units in Ontario and whether any changes need to be made,” Yaffe said.

The three regions currently in a modified Stage 2 are Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa. Among a number of measures, the new restrictions ban indoor dining and force gyms to close. 

But on Wednesday, areas like Hamilton and York Region reported more COVID-19 cases than Ottawa. 

Hamilton reported 41 new COVID-19 cases while York Region reported 79.

Yaffe said a number of different factors will go into deciding whether regions like these need to implement new restrictions. 

She said the public health team will consider the percent positivity rate on tests, the case rate per 100,000 people and reproductive numbers.

Ontario’s seven-day rolling average for percent positivity is 2.2 per cent, Yaffe said. 

In the province-wide data reported on Wednesday, it was 3 per cent, which Yaffe calls “worrisome.”

“It indicates that we see transmission in the community,” she said. 

On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said he was “praying” other regions didn’t need to revert to Stage 2 but he will ultimately take the advice of public health officials.

“I am just praying we don’t have to expand this,” Ford said. “Everybody just keep following the protocols and let’s get these numbers down because I will tell you it is painful doing what we had to do last week. It really weighs on you.”

Ontario reported another 721 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking a slight decline from the number of infections logged a day earlier.

There were 746 infections confirmed on Tuesday, 807 on Monday, 649 on Sunday and 809 on Saturday. 

Ontario hiring additional contact tracers 

The Ontario government also announced on Wednesday that an 100 additional contact tracers had been hired in the province and an additional 500 more recruits are expected to begin work by mid-November.

“With these additional hires, we will have hundreds more boots on the ground to support contact tracing throughout the province, which is an essential weapon in our fight against COVID-19,” Ford said Wednesday. 

According to the government, there are currently more than 2,750 case and contact management staff active across all public health units.

Ontario Public Service staff are also volunteering for redeployment to provide surge support for contact tracing, the government said.

In addition, 600 Statistics Canada employees have also been onboarded since July to assist with contact follow-up.

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