It’s the end of a pandemic tradition, a soap opera of sorts with regular reminders for viewers to wash their hands.
Ontario is pulling the plug on its weekly COVID-19 television show — that is, the long-standing Thursday afternoon briefing by the chief medical officer that has been dutifully broadcast live on news channels and online.
The last weekly briefing by Dr. Kieran Moore, a replacement host following the retirement of his predecessor Dr. David Williams last June, will be in two weeks.
“With key public health and health system indicators continuing to improve or remain stable, Dr. Moore will be holding his last regular weekly COVID-19 update on March 10,” said Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
“Dr. Moore will continue to be available for upcoming COVID-19 announcements as required.”
The cancellation looms as Ontario continues easing public health restrictions, such as the lifting of customer capacity limits in restaurants, bars, cinemas, gyms and other venues along with the end of a requirement to show proof-of-vaccination certificates next Tuesday.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the doctor’s regular news conferences — which include a question-and-answer session with reporters seeking details of his next moves — are getting the hook too soon because “COVID is not over yet.”
“To simply say we’re not going to do any kind of regular update is troubling to me,” Horwath told reporters Friday. “People appreciate and value information because it helps them make decisions about their own safety and their own lives.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and infection levels have been falling steadily in recent weeks, although Moore cautioned at his Thursday news conference that wastewater sampling shows stubborn pockets of the virus in northern parts of Toronto and northeastern Ontario.
“The risk is still there. The virus is still present. It’s just that the impact on the health care system has stabilized,” he said.
A decision on when to lift mask mandates in schools and indoor public spaces remains under consideration, Moore said.
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