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York Region backs off projection of COVID-19 case spike in December

The public health unit is preparing to roll out booster shots to residents, to be available at clinics, physician offices and pharmacies
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York Region’s COVID-19 cases are plateauing and public health no longer expects a significant spike of cases in December. 

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Richard Gould said Oct. 28 that average daily cases could be at 37 by the start of December if active transmission rates are maintained, which is a sharp contrast from projections last month, when he reported daily cases could get as high as 245 in December. 

Gould added the new forecast is reflective of declines in cases provincially and nationally. 

“The projections are suggesting the plateau will continue to an extent, so we’re keeping a very close eye on that,” Gould said. “In terms of immunization, we’re doing well." 

The region utilizes a variety of sources in its projections, including waste monitoring. Just more than 87 per cent of eligible residents age 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which Gould said is a key reason for the declining trends.

However, there are still some groups at risk and age bands with lower vaccination rates being targeting for outreach, he added. 

“We want to get as close to 90 per cent (vaccination rate) as we can,” Gould said. 

As for schools, Gould said outbreaks are happening, with 262 school-related cases currently. However, he said public health has not yet had to close any schools due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

“It’s mostly under control,” he said of COVID-19 in school settings.

Meanwhile, the region is preparing to start vaccinating the children aged five to 11, likely in November, Gould said.

COVID-19 booster shots are also soon going to be available for the public from public health, primary care providers and pharmacies, Gould said, with guidance expected to be the additional dose should be administered about six months after a second dose.

York Region is also preparing to crack down on unvaccinated staff. Chief administrative officer Bruce Macgregor said 96 per cent of staff have disclosed their vaccination status under a regional mandate, with 92 per cent fully vaccinated. Staff members are required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, and MacGregor said those who fail to disclose will be put on leave by Nov. 8.

“The gap is closing very quickly on January, when we intend that more employees may very well be returning to the workplace at least occasionally,” Macgregor said. “(This is) backed up by virtually every health authority as the major defence against the spread of COVID in the community and the workplace.”