Changing the Future

In Canada, those protecting our health almost always act in unison, which makes it all the more startling that Toronto had to go it alone this week, pointing to a dangerous and confusing rift between the Provincial priority to keep business open and the City emphasis on reducing sickness and death.

For months, it has been obvious that a second wave is growing so quickly that it threatens to overwhelm us. As regularly chronicled in this space, Toronto’s weekly new case total was 115 on August 7. That number rose to 265 September 4, before leaping to 2001 October 2 and 2445 November 6. Only one week later, today, the number is 3267. Obviously, we have lost control of the situation.

Provincially, the current rate of daily increase is above 5%; if it continues at that level, Ontario could see 6500 new cases each day by the middle of December. Already, COVID hospitalizations have increased 161% over the past six weeks Projections show that that the need for ICU beds will certainly soon pass 150, the point at which hospitals start cancelling non-emergency surgeries, and could top 400 within a month.

Infections and deaths in long-term care are rising, and anything like the being forecast would likely cause all schools to be closed.

Amid all this, the Province introduced a new colour-coded system with standards that would have re-opened Toronto’s bars, gyms, and indoor dining. These standards were criticized by leading health experts; the Toronto Star reported that it even went against the advice provided by the Province’s own external expert pandemic advisors.

This left Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, with little choice but to use her own powers to go beyond the Provincial regulations. To summarize the rules that will be in place tomorrow: indoor dining, bars, gyms, and event spaces will all stay closed; residents are strongly urged to limit close contacts to those they live with and to eliminate unnecessary trips outside the home.

Acting alone puts the city at some legal risk plus creates confusion about which regulations are in place where, when, and why.  But had Dr. DeVilla not acted, we were almost certainly on the verge of a complete lockdown which would cause even greater harm to business. Let’s hope the situation isn’t already too far gone to bring it under control with less drastic measures.

As in all things, government intervention only works if the public gets on board. If deprived of the ability to move from person to person, the virus would die out. So it’s really up to us. Please stay six feet away from anyone outside your household, wear a mask, wash your hands often, and stay home unless you have no choice.

The next five months may be the most difficult part of this pandemic. Beyond that, we can look forward to being outside again, with the likelihood that some of us will already be vaccinated by spring and most of us will have some level of immunity by the time 2021 turns cold again.

Today’s music video is as dark and frightening as this week’s news. It is not for the faint of heart. I’ll take it as Leonard Cohen telling us that “love’s the only engine of survival”, warning us what can happen if good people don’t step up.

– John