Frightening Numbers Require Decisive Action

The careless disregard that a relatively small number have shown for the wellbeing of others has sent us backwards into the frightening world of out-of-control COVID and pandemic shutdown.

This week, Toronto had an astounding 2001 new cases. That’s almost 50% more than the 1104 cases which sounded loud alarm bells last week. As recently as early August, Toronto had less than 100 new cases in a week.

Today, Toronto Public Health reached the unhappy conclusion that pleas to act responsibly were not working and much more drastic measures are needed to halt the trend.

Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen DeVilla has called on the Province to do the following:

  1. Prohibit indoor dining.

  2. Advise people to only leave their homes for essential activities.

  3. Prohibit indoor team sport activity and group classes in gyms.

  4. Introduce new measures to reduce the risk in large venues, some of which are currently allowed to have more than 100 patrons.

Clearly, with Ontario’s numbers also reaching record highs, the Province has been dangerously slow to address hotspots.  Although the Province announced some new measures today, they are very minor and not nearly enough to get the virus under control. Toronto does not believe it has the legal authority to act on its own.

Currently in Toronto, there are 226 active outbreaks in the community, as well as in congregate settings such as schools, child care centres, and workplaces. Of recent outbreaks, 44 percent were in restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues – all of which have the high potential of mass infections. Last week, Toronto Public Health had to issue an alert that 1700 people could have been exposed at the Yonge Street Warehouse.

I am greatly concerned about the impact of new restrictions being recommended for all restaurants, especially the small independent operations whose owners risk not only their livelihood but, in many cases, their life savings. Many of these places have been operating safely. But others have not, and it is legally impossible to differentiate.

These types of businesses need greater, targeted support from all levels of government. And it’s up to all of us individually to support them as much as possible with takeout orders.

But if we don’t act decisively and numbers continue their upward spiral, we face catastrophic results, with an even greater impact on economic activity. Other likely results would be the closing of schools, increased deaths in long-term care homes, and the overloading of hospitals.

There has been some debate over whether we are in the careless aftermath of the First Wave, as I believe, or have entered the undefined and somewhat mysterious Second Wave expected to coincide with the return of cold weather. The definition isn’t important; what’s obvious is that however bad the pandemic is now, left unchecked it will get much worse. Layer onto that the complication of an overlapping flu season, creating a large number of people with symptoms which will initially look very similar to COVID.

Already, we are having great difficulty handling the testing overload and getting results within a few days. This reduces Public Health’s ability to do contact tracing, which in turn hampers efforts to reduce the reproduction rate of new cases, which continues the surging case count.

We’re all getting COVID fatigue. I’m growing weary of writing about it you’re probably tired of reading about it. But it’s important that we all understand the situation we’re in, what we can do as individuals, and what government must do.

Please avoid unnecessary risks. Stay safe and be well.

– John