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Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott removes her mask to speak at a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto, on Sept. 22, 2021.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Ontario’s daily COVID-19 case counts are lower than what many experts had expected by now, and experts are largely pointing to the province’s adherence to public health measures.

But they also say now is not the time to ease up on those measures.

An expected September surge has not yet materialized, as daily case counts remain under 1,000 and the seven-day average has plateaued.

Ontario is reporting 653 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and a total of six more deaths related to the virus.

The province says half the deaths took place over the last 24 hours, while three occurred more than a month ago and were added to the overall count after a data cleanup.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 499 of the latest infections are in individuals who aren’t fully vaccinated or whose immunization status is unknown.

The province’s data suggest hospitals are treating 198 patients with COVID-19, including 177 in intensive care and 127 on a ventilator.

Elliott notes that not all hospitals report their numbers on weekends.

She says 85.8 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 80.2 per cent have both shots.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, says Ontario’s vaccination campaign is certainly helping, particularly the targeting of high-risk communities.

About 86 per cent of eligible people have received at least one dose.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, attributed the stable cases to Ontarians’ adherence to public health measures such as masking.

Beate Sander, the co-chair of the province’s modelling consensus table, says she would have expected to see more cases by now, but that doesn’t mean a bump won’t materialize in a few weeks.

She says Ontario likely has not yet seen the rise in cases that schools will spark, and the rate of infection is rising in kids aged five to 11.

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