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Health experts advising the Ontario government say “aggressive” vaccination and maintaining a stay-at-home order will help the province avoid a third wave and another lockdown.

In new COVID-19 projections issued today, they say public health measures have cut COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and positivity rates across the province.

But they say variant strains of COVID-19 remain a serious concern and cases will likely grow again in late February, which will lead to more admissions to intensive care units.

The experts say focusing vaccination efforts on long-term care homes has started to pay off, with a declining number of daily deaths in the facilities.

However, the number of deaths in nursing homes in the second wave of the pandemic has now drawn nearly even with the number of deaths in the facilities from the first wave.

The data comes as the province began a gradual reopening of its economy this week by lifting a stay-at-home order for three regions with low cases.

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 945 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, although public health officials said that number was under-reported.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 258 new cases in Peel Region, 116 in York Region, and 112 in Toronto.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said that as Toronto continues to migrate its case counts to the provincial database, Ontario’s daily tally is under-reported.

Ontario also reported 14 more deaths linked to the virus.

More than 68,800 tests were completed since Wednesday’s report.

The province said that 14,717 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the last daily update.

A total of 426,836 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far.

There have been 282,511 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, 263,044 of which have been resolved and 6,614 have led to death.

Canada's chief public health officer says that while there has been recent progress on bringing down the number of new COVID-19 cases, loosening restrictions must be done with caution and that provinces must be ready to reapply them quickly if things start to get worse, especially with the new variants.

The Canadian Press

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