Stay the Blazes Home

Stay home. Unless you’re going to a big box store. Or gathering with up to five friends outside somewhere, for something or other. Confused? Well just stay the blazes home.

If this week’s new provincial regulations were merely confusing, that would be easier to deal with. But this jumble of contradictory half measures will almost certainly be deadly.

The numbers are just too high and rising much too fast to roll the dice, in the vague hope that some lucky break will somehow prevail over scientific evidence to the contrary.

Sure, vaccinations will reduce both cases and deaths over time, but the worst months of the pandemic are at our doorstep. Despite all the measures to date, the reproduction rate remains at about 1.1 – meaning that each 100 cases infect, on average, 110 more. That alone should be reason for stronger action.

But the greater threat is the variant (see separate piece below). According to the Province’s own experts, this new form of the virus could double case numbers every 10 days, instead of the current 40 days. According to Ontario’s own forecasts, new cases in the province could easily rise from less than 4,000 to 20,000 per day by mid February, and then upward from that. The number of Ontarians needing Intensive Care for COVID could easily hit 1,000 – far beyond capacity.

The next two weeks are already cast in stone by infections that have already occurred but haven’t yet translated into cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Decisive action was needed this week to protect us in February. In short, we are on the brink of having the virus overwhelm our health care system.

That would mean a large increase in deaths. A shortage of ICUs would force physicians to decide who gets care and, more to the point, who doesn’t. Many more non-COVID patients – those needing heart or cancer surgery, for example – would die prematurely as surgeries are indefinitely postponed.

If a hurricane was gaining strength off our shore, would we gamble that it will miss us, or would we take every precaution we could?

Why are big box stores still open for anything other than groceries, drawing large numbers of people while sucking the life out of the thousands of small retailers? Why is there no temporary emergency sick day provision, as called for by both Dr. DeVilla and Mayor Tory, so that the lower paid workers  most exposed to the virus can stay home or self- isolate if they think they might have been exposed or infected? People forced to choose between staying off work or feeding their families could be a source of infection.

A stay at home order, on its surface, seems like strong medicine. And it’s certainly reasonable to allow exceptions for anything legitimately essential, or to step outside masked and at a safe distance with another person or to walk the dog. But there is very little in the new measures that is either new or enforceable.

As The Toronto Police have already announced, their role will be limited to enforcing restrictions in big box stores and other retailers, something which should already be happening.

Over the past several months, we have seen increasingly strong measures – but always past the point when they might have pushed the numbers down.

Most of us have been doing our best to keep ourselves and others safe. It’s past time for a stronger measure of tough love. From Nick Lowe’s mouth to Doug Ford’s ears, “You gotta be cruel to be kind.”

– John