It’s a risk, to be sure, but one that’s being cautiously managed.
Starting today, Toronto moves to Stage 3. This means that restaurants and bars can now seat customers inside. Other re-opening permissions include larger indoor and outdoor gatherings and the long-awaited ability for children to return to public playgrounds. For a list of what can open, with restrictions, click here.
With many businesses hanging on by their fingernails and all of us needing to return to whatever semblance of normal life we can do safely, this seemed like the opportune time to find out how well we’ve learned to live with COVID. But, clearly, we’re heading into uncharted territory.
Toronto took this step after observing what’s gone wrong in other places which opened too soon, without enough restrictions, and with large numbers of residents ignoring precautions – conditions almost guaranteed to cause cases to soar.
Toronto, by contrast, waited until our number of new cases was as low as it’s likely get before a vaccine. Most residents are following advice to wear masks and keep a safe distance from others. And effective testing and contact tracing helps us contain transmission.
As an added precaution, Toronto Council this week unanimously adopted the advice of our Medical Officer of Health to create our own list of additional rules, on top of what the province was requiring. To discourage mingling with drink in hand, restaurant and bar customers must stay seated, except when getting up to use the washroom or pay bills – at which point they need to be wearing a mask. There can be no more than 10 at a table, and staff must be screened for COVID symptoms regularly.
Increased contact means greater risk, and it may be weeks before we know how well this works. But with the virus more under control in Toronto than at any time since March, there wasn’t going to be a better time to try.
With the right rules in place, it will now be up to us to follow them. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t be long before we’ll have the unhappy task of retreating to Stage 2.
While the number of new cases has dropped, the rise in the percentage of cases among those under 40 causes concern. Although teens and young adults are more likely to have mild symptoms, they are just as likely to spread the virus.
For those in that demographic, here’s my Top Reasons to avoid getting COVID (moving from selfish to altruistic):
Even though you are less likely to become very ill, there are examples of serious illness and some deaths among young people.
Many things remain unknown about the virus, including long term health impacts.
Because young people may be more likely to have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, that makes them more likely to unwittingly spread the virus, including to older family members.
If careless behaviour causes the virus to spread, that could force us to start closing up again – causing both emotional and economic hardship.
Higher community spread of the virus would make it less safe to send kids back to school.
Our frontline health care workers have made great personal and health sacrifices to keep us safe; we owe it to them not to let this get worse again.
A comparison of mortality numbers this year to last points to a conclusion that there are many indirect COVID deaths. This is perhaps because high case levels reduces the capacity of the health system to identify and treat other illness. Hospitals have had to postpone many surgeries.
Now, for all the teenagers – and federal politicians – who are not having the carefree summer they’d hoped for, Eddie Cochran had this to say about the Summertime Blues.