Dr. Kieran Moore said the COVID-19 endemic state will start in the fall.
Ontario is moving through its reopening plan and hitting vaccination targets ahead of schedule, but COVID-19 itself is not going anywhere yet, according to the province's soon-to-be top doctor, Dr. Kieran Moore.
Moore joined Dr. David Williams during a press conference on Thursday to discuss the province's progress and what the future holds.
"This is a brilliant track record, we are making terrific progress in protecting our community, and moving from a pandemic to an endemic state where we can try to get back to normal," said Moore. He explained this endemic state will emerge in the fall and that the province is "doing all the due diligence to prepare."
What is an endemic?
The CDC defines endemic as "the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area."
Scientists working in the field believe COVID-19 won't go away entirely but will instead become an endemic disease that will still be around and create outbreaks in areas where it had been eliminated, according to an article published by The BMJ in February. They anticipate that there will be fewer deaths from infection and less of a need for isolation as more people become immune through vaccination or infection, the outlet reports.
How will an endemic be managed in Ontario?
"It's very important that all Canadians realize that only 10% of the globe is going to have access to vaccines as we speak. We're so fortunate in Ontario and Canada to be leaders in being immunized," said Moore. "But, 90% of the globe is not immunized, and that's where the virus continues to circulate, where mutations will develop, and any returning traveller could bring the virus back into Canada at any given time."
Testing for travellers returning back to Canada will continue to take place in order to contain the spread of new COVID-19 variants that could emerge, said Moore.
"We're preparing for an endemic state by having our health units starting to tabletop and build capacity for case-and-contact management, for ongoing testing capacity throughout the next year, as well as restoring all their basic public health functions and health system functions," said Dr. Moore. "We must over the next year maintain a case-and-contact management capacity that's robust, that can put out any fires that start, as well as having a testing strategy that can identify the next strain that's circulating."
The measures include "testing aggressively for returning travellers, identifying when they have a new variant or are positive for [COVID-19], isolating them so they don't bring it back into our communities," he said, adding that health officials will closely monitor any variants that vaccines are not as effective against. "That would be a very serious situation for us," he said.