Turning point in pandemic says Ranade

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Dr. Sudit Ranade, Lambton's Acting Medical Officer of Health,

Ontario’s doors opened a little wider Friday as the province moves into the third stage of reopening after the brutal third wave of COVID-19 which led to mass shutdowns.

And there is hope the Victoria Playhouse will be able to open soon as restrictions ease.

It comes as local health officials say we’re at a turning point in the pandemic.

Friday’s reopening comes as Ontario continues to make progress vaccinating against the virus which has killed 26,450 people in Canada including 9,258 in Ontario. As of July 16, 78 per cent of Ontarians 12 and up have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; 58 per cent have had two.

In order to enter Step Three of reopening, Ontario needed to have vaccinated 70 to 80 per cent of adults with one dose and 25 per cent with two doses.

In Stage Three of the reopening, many of the restrictions are lifted, with more people allowed in one place. Retailers will only have to limit store capacity to the number of people who can be distanced by two meters; everything from museums, historic sites, zoos, bingo halls, fairs and festivals can hold indoor events with 50 per cent capacity.

Theatres can also have up to 50 per cent capacity. There is no word yet when Victoria Playhouse Petrolia might begin performances although officials say plans are in the works and there will be an announcement shortly.

Gyms can also let people back inside at 50 per cent capacity. Arenas will also be open with up to 50 per cent spectators allowed inside to watch.

There will be dancing at nightclubs and bars – although you have to be masked.
You can also have up to 100 people outside for social gatherings. Indoors, officials want just 25.

There are no capacity limits for religious services and ceremonies, including weddings and funerals; people simply have to be able to stay six feet apart.
And there will be no limits on how many people can be in a salon or at a restaurant, as long as social distancing is maintained.

Public health officials add wearing masks will still be necessary indoors and it is important to continue staying two meters away from others.

While the province is lifting the restrictions, Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, recently told Lambton County councillors this is a turning point in the pandemic.

“I think we’ve achieved the critical goals we set out to – reducing death and preserving the health care system,” he says. The question now, he says, is “how much should we hold on to the remaining interventions” like physical separation and masking.

Ranade says vaccination rates are so high now, the impact of COVID-19 is going to be similar to influenza. The medical officer of health says the vaccine is 95 per cent effective and that will make the biggest difference in reducing death in the population, particularly the elderly who are most vulnerable.

The problem, he says, will be those who aren’t vaccinated, adding “once you hit 40 (years of age) if you have COVID, you are more likely to die from COVID than if you were in a motor vehicle accident… it’s dramatically higher risk.

“If the fatality rates are at or near the same as influenza, we can start treating this disease differently.”