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Ontario COVID-19 cases appear to have plateaued. What now?

CARYN CEOLIN | posted Tuesday, Jan 19th, 2021

There was rare optimism in Ontario’s fight against COVID-19 Monday, as the chief medical officer of health said there are early signs the Boxing Day lockdown is working.

Dr. David Williams said daily cases have plateaued to the 3,000 range and the percent of Ontarians testing positive is also dropping.

“It’s been a trend for one week so far,” said COVID-19 biostatistician Ryan Imgrund. “At least we can have some faith that it’s not just a one-day drop.”

Imgrund said the province’s reproductive value is below one. It’s another indication the lockdown we entered on Dec. 26th – not the stricter lockdown implemented last week – has so far been effective.

Now the challenge, Imgrund said, is keeping down the “R number,” which is how many secondary infections are caused by one primary infection.

“You really want to get that value significantly under one, and the more you can get that under one, the better it is,” he said.

Dr. Williams indicated he’ll consider lifting lockdown measures when cases drop to below 1,000.

“For us to get down to around 1,000 cases will probably take about six or seven weeks,” Imgrund said. “For instance, if you have that reproductive value down to 0.7 it actually means that in one month our 3,000 cases will actually go down to 300 cases.”

Over the past few months, Imgrund has watched the case numbers with alarm. He says banning gatherings and moving schools online are driving the decline.

But he cautions once schools reopen, COVID-19 will travel from one home to the next.

“We have to keep in mind that even though we may have a stringent lockdown in place,” he said, “once you send kids back to school, you will inevitably increase transmission.”

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