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Top doc estimates 40,000 COVID-19 cases circulating in York Region

'We know that transmissibility, not severity, is what drives the impact on society and our health system,' medical officer of health Dr. Barry Pakes says
2022-01-04-Dr. Barry Pakes-JQ
Dr. Barry Pakes delivers an update Jan. 3.

York Region’s top doc said public health is supporting provincial restriction measures with an estimated 40,000 COVID-19 cases circulating in the region.

Medical officer of health Dr. Barry Pakes said in a Jan. 3 video update that the 8,161 confirmed active cases in the community as of Dec. 30 likely represent only one-fifth of total cases. He added public health expects the numbers to keep rising in the coming weeks.

He said regional public health supports the province’s new restrictions coming into effect tomorrow and is not planning any additional region-specific rules.

“As a community and as individuals, we must continue to look out for each other,” Pakes said. “We have proven we are resilient and will continue to get through this challenging time.”

The provincial restrictions announced Jan. 2  include closing indoor dining, schools, cinemas, concert venues, recreation facilities and more. Isolation and contact tracing requirements have also changed, with only five-day isolation periods required for the fully vaccinated, and public health focusing contact tracing on high-risk settings. 

Pakes said hospitalizations and ICU admissions are starting to increase. He said the now dominant omicron variant may only be half as likely to cause hospitalization as the delta variant, but it is also about five times as transmissible.

“We know that transmissibility, not severity, is what drives the impact on society and our health system,” Pakes said. “Fortunately, we have vaccines. Fully vaccinated individuals may still get omicron but are very well protected from hospitalization and deaths. Those who receive boosters are much more likely to have much stronger protection against omicron infection.”

He also confirmed that public health would no longer be directly involved in managing COVID-19 in schools, and the province plans to no longer dismiss cohorts with case exposures. 

“These plans may still change, but regardless of when in-person school begins, in this new school environment, it is critically important for students to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Pakes said.

York Region has vaccinated approximately 46.2 per cent of its age five to 11 population with a first dose as of Dec. 30.

Despite the trends, Pakes said the situation is not the same as at the start of last year.

“I am optimistic. We have effective vaccines providing good protection against severe disease and proven ways to limit the spread,” he said. “Following the science, in combination with robust community cooperation, will guide us to brighter days ahead.”

You can book a COVID-19 vaccine through or the provincial website.