Pressing On

The current surge in new Covid cases isn't reason enough to restore mask mandates because the increase was expected, according to the provincial government. Help me decide which is worse: that statement is true, and the government dropped masks anyway – or – it's not true, but they'd rather stick with that story than admit a miscalculation.


On a more positive note, protection to those at highest risk has become more available in the form of fourth doses and antiviral medication. More on those below.


Daily cases have risen to 100,000 – the level that sent us into lockdown this winter. Covid hospitalizations are back up to 1392, an increase of more than 70 percent over the past two weeks. ICU cases stand at 144, a smaller increase but with warnings that this number could hit 600 during this wave – a level that would again force cancellation of some surgeries, leading to greater health risks for non-Covid patients.


I was the only member of City Council to vote against removing Toronto's mask bylaw. That's not because I knew where an unpredictable virus was heading but because it appeared eminently unwise to drop masks while numbers were still high, and several factors – March Break, more contagious subvariants, the dropping of other restrictions - were poised to drive them higher again.


On top of that was the impression, taken by some, that we could throw caution to the wind or that, collectively, we don't all need to take simple precautions to protect others, especially the most vulnerable for whom wearing a mask themselves simply doesn't offer enough protection if others around them aren't doing the same indoors.


Covid has proven itself unusually adept at defying predictions. Based on what we thought we knew a year ago, the combination of an extremely high vaccination rate and natural immunity from infections would have left the virus with few people to infect.


You don't hear medical experts talking about herd immunity much anymore, due to the procession of variants and subvariants (see below) which are both more contagious and able to evade immunity. Being vaccinated does not stop you from getting Covid, nor has getting it stopped some from getting it again.


There is much evidence that Omicron infects those who had Delta and other earlier versions of the virus, and it's too soon to be sure whether this will be the case with the growing list of Omicron subvariants. Nor do we know when completely new variants may arrive or how they will behave. So much for the "I don't care if I get it because I just want to get this over with" approach. Also, if you don't yet know someone whose symptoms lasted for weeks or months ("long Covid"), you likely will.


So please take simple steps to protect yourself and others, including wearing masks in public indoor spaces. And strongly consider getting additional doses as you become eligible (see below). It is well established that immunity from vaccination begins to wane within months, changing the definition of what it means to be fully vaccinated. A surprisingly large percentage of our population hasn't gotten this message. While overall vaccination rates are around 90%, third doses stand at only 60%.


Please do not confuse limited vaccine effectiveness at preventing infection with the vaccine's high ability to protect against serious illness and death. See below for eligibility on fourth doses.


-John

By Markus O'Brien Fehr Chief of Staff A reader recently responded to John's newsletter with an excellent question: "What's going on with the reconstruction of Yonge Street?" It's true that there hasn'