Ontario's uptick in COVID-19 cases could put an early move to Step 1 in jeopardy, top official says

A rise in COVID-19 cases over the past two days has prompted Ontario's top doctor to warn the chances of an earlier reopening are looking "less promising."

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams told reporters on Thursday he’s concerned about the recent uptick, and said it could potentially be attributed to the Victoria Day long weekend.

Ontario confirmed 870 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, which comes after 699 new infections on Tuesday and 733 on Wednesday.

Despite the daily uptick in cases, Ontario's rolling seven-day average continues to drop and is currently at 940.

"I hope we don't have a continual rise over the weekend," Williams said. "Getting over 1,000 again, that would be disappointing to say the least."

"Let's hope we can turn that around."

Williams said he would have "better answers" for Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott next week about whether Ontario can enter Step 1 before June 14.

He said he wants to ensure the increase in cases is "just a temporary one."

Earlier on Thursday, Elliott said she understands that people are anxious to move into Step 1 and are waiting for a decision on whether that timeline can be pushed up by a few day.

“But we can only do that when it's safe for everyone’s health for that to happen," Elliott said, adding there was no word on when the final decision would be made.

She said the province is also tracking the increase in variant cases, especially the "delta variant," first discovered in India.

"The number have gone up slightly today, but generally they are trending downwards," Elliott said. "We're going to continue to follow the data."

Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday, while announcing schools will not reopen this academic year, that he's waiting for advice from Williams about whether the province can push forward the Step 1 date.

Step 1 allows for Ontario to relax restrictions that mainly involving outdoor activities.

Outdoor gathering limits will increase to 10 people, patios can reopen, and non-essential retail reopens at 15 per cent capacity.