Ontario 'nowhere near' loosening rules for fully vaccinated people despite new guidelines in U.S.: Yaffe
Licensed practical nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to Donna Wilson, 82, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Ohio. Kareem Elgazzar /The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
Published Monday, March 8, 2021 4:53PM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 8, 2021 5:21PM EST
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines that will allow fully vaccinated people in the U.S. to forgo masks and physical distancing in some instances but one of Ontario’s top public health officials says the province is “nowhere near” loosening restrictions to that extent yet.
The guidelines released by the CDC today would allow fully vaccinated people to visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing, provided those people are at low risk for severe disease.
That means, for example, that grandparents who are fully vaccinated could once again hug their grandchildren but only south of the border.
In Canada, federal officials are yet to release any sort of guidelines for fully vaccinated people and on Monday Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that “everybody needs to keep following the basic precautions for now” even if they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“They (the U.S.) have a much higher percentage of the population vaccinated so that is an important consideration in making that recommendation. We are obviously at this point working very hard to get people vaccinated and we do have a pretty good level right now in long-term care and retirement homes, which is great, but other than that we really are nowhere near what the CDC is recommending,” she said.
Approximately 273,000 Ontarians have been fully vaccinated so far but that group is mostly made up of healthcare workers and long term-care residents and staff.
That, however, is expected to change in the coming weeks and months as the supplies of vaccines arriving in the province start to ramp up.
Yaffe said that there are some preliminary discussions taking place about what sort of conditions can be put in place for people who have been fully vaccinated but she said that the “bottom line” right now is that people have to keep practicing physical distancing.
Her comments were also echoed by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, who cited the lack of data around whether vaccinations stop transmission or just symptoms when explaining the need for caution.
“We know it protects against contracting and the severe consequences of disease but we are not sure it eliminates total transmission altogether. So when you ask people or say you can just congregate any way you want, you have assumed at that stage that no transmission will occur and I would like to think that will be the case but I still want to see the data,” he said.
While the CDC is loosening its guidance for fully vaccinated people, it has said that a number of public health guidelines will still apply.
It says that people must continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing when around individuals at increased risk for a severe outcome from COVID-19.
It also says that those same precautions must be followed when interacting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
Speaking with reporters, Williams said that Ontario health officials will be reviewing the CDC guidelines and underlying data “to see how it applies in our context” but he made no promises on whether it will be amended for use in Ontario.