As daily cases of COVID-19 continue to drop, across the province and in Niagara, safe reopening is getting closer.
But maybe not as close as the province is suggesting.
While the provincial stay-at-home order has been extended to June 2, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health for Niagara, isn’t convinced that’s long enough. He hasn’t changed his message about another two weeks after that being needed for a sustainable reopening.
Although the trends are going in the right direction, hospitals are still seeing intensive care units full with more COVID cases than the second wave, and much higher than last summer. Patients are still being transferred out of GTA hospitals to those further afield, he says.
Hirji is predicting a lockdown extension of another two weeks after June 2 will be necessary, if we want to open safely and stay open for the rest of the year.
Premier Doug Ford, he says, “is hedging his bets” about a further extension.
There is already evidence that people are not staying home as much as they were when the lockdown began, Hirji says, and although cases are coming down, they may not be decreasing as quickly as they could. People are taking public transit, shopping and gathering in groups, and “that’s worrying.”
Being outdoors in itself is not as much of a worry, but the number of people “out and about” starting to creep up is of concern.
The more aggressively we adhere to the lockdown, the more aggressively we’ll be able to reopen, he says.
Meanwhile, the number of people vaccinated in Niagara is climbing, with almost 45 per cent of adults having received their first dose. Numbers range from 17 per cent for the 18 to 29 age group, and increasing steadily up through the age categories to 98 per cent of those over 80.
Almost 230,000 doses have been administered to date to Niagara residents.
Hirji says he is still hoping to have 75 per cent of people vaccinated in time to allow for a safe summer reopening.