Public health officials call for a ‘circuit breakers” to stop Omicron in Ontario

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Public health officials are sounding the alarm bells about he emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ontario.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Table projects without intervention by the province, we’ll see more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 per day in a matter of days. At the worst point of the pandemic, Ontario public health reported 5,000 cases daily.

Today, public health reported 2,421 across the province. In Lambton, another 24 people tested positive for COVID-19. And another person passed away in hospital.

Premier Doug Ford announced yesterday everyone over 18 would be eligible for a booster shot Monday to help combat the new variant. The province is also handing out rapid tests in high traffic areas like malls and LCBO stores. And it’s cut capacity limits for venues with more than 1000 seats to 50 per cent.

Officials from the science table say the measures are not enough in the face of Omicron.

“Increasing vaccination is not enough to slow this wave,” Dr. Stein Brown of the Science Table told reporters this morning. “Circuit breakers with strong additional public
health measures (at least 50% fewer contacts) and strong booster campaigns (250,000 per day) could blunt the Omicron wave,” he writes his report.

“If we want to blunt this wave, please note that I’m saying blunted not flat, we will need to reduce contacts between people. I believe we can do this without closing schools or shutting down businesses that have suffered during previous waves. But it will take serious restrictions that reduce contacts. This is a hard decision.”

That he says will buy the province enough time to get more vaccines in arms to reduce the risks of serious illness.

Even with actions by the government , Brown says hospitals will “still face incredibly strong pressures” because of the people who become seriously ill.

“This will come at an already challenging time when health care workers are fatigue burned out from the preceding waves.

“High-quality masks, physical distancing indoors, improved ventilation, and increased access to rapid testing can help buy time for boosters to take effect and keep schools
open.

“There is still some uncertainty. But there’s also an undeniable urgency. Waiting to take action means waiting till it is too late to take action,” says Brown.

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade was also blunt in his assessment. He told reporters this morning, public health is working to increase capacity at vaccine clinics.

He’s working with doctors and pharmacies to try to ramp up the third dose campaign, but, “we may not be able to do enough to accommodate everyone. That’s the reality that we have to face. The other reality that we have to face is that even in the face of boosting a lot of people, we may not actually change the outcome of what is going to happen with Omicron in our county.

“It’s very highly transmissible in the same circumstances that regular COVID …transmits. And it seems to be also effective at transmitting among vaccinated people in these social settings,” says Ranade.

While Brown is suggesting reduce their contacts in the community in an effort to blunt the impact of this wave, Ranade isn’t sure that’s going to make a difference.

Asked about whether the upcoming Silver Stick Tournaments in Central Lambton should move ahead Ranade said: “I’m not sure that there’s a difference either way. And that that’s the challenge that we face… you could stop some of those activities, but this is still gonna spread in other areas, unless we absolutely shut everything down, including people’s social interactions. And unless we actually did it last week, not much is going to change the trajectory.

“So, because of that, I wouldn’t be I wouldn’t be so eager to focus on one particular setting or area or sector or event, because there going to be so many others that people are doing privately that are going to actually spread this disease as well.”

Ranade says the best advice he has, in the absence of any provincial rules is to remember, “it’s smaller, smaller, smaller; smaller is better in terms of gatherings.”