THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s medical officer of health says provincial plans to lift restrictions including masking and vaccine requirements in the coming months could be premature, as the district sees a bump in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Janet DeMille, who heads the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, said she “wasn’t too thrilled” with some aspects of a rough timeline to ease COVID-19 rules offered in late October by the Ontario government.
The province has said it could lift proof-of-vaccine requirements in settings like restaurants as soon as Jan. 17, and in higher-risk settings like night clubs in February. The plan will depend on indicators like hospitalizations and ICU admissions, transmission levels, and whether new variants arise.
“That was one aspect I was uncomfortable with,” DeMille said of the plan to end vaccine requirements. “I would like to have seen that a little bit later, but I recognize it’s really going to depend on what happens over the next couple of months.”
The vaccine certificate system has helped keep settings like sports games, movies, and restaurants safe enough to remain open with larger capacity limits, she said.
“The proof of vaccination I think is still very important. These vaccines are working well… and they allow people who are fully immunized to really be together and it’s safer.”
Active cases in the district are at their highest level since June, at 22, after the health unit announced seven new cases Thursday.
The development is not necessarily surprising, given the colder weather and recent easing of public health restrictions like capacity limits, DeMille said, but still called it “concerning.”
“It’s a little disconcerting we’re seeing our case numbers go up a little bit,” she said. “I think maybe in the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a trend upward… I think even [across] Ontario, the drop we were experiencing for quite a while has now stopped, and possibly turning the corner to see increased cases.”