A new lockdown is here – an “emergency brake” response when a well-planned approach to a highly visible danger would have done a far better job.
We are now well into a third wave that will inevitably get worse. Because it typically takes about two weeks for virus spread to show up as cases, and even longer until those cause spikes in hospitalizations and admissions to Intensive Care Units, actions taken today are too late to have any impact on the disaster facing us the first two weeks of April.
Unfortunately, I can’t even characterize the new 28-day “lockdown,” which begins Saturday, as “better late than never” because, here in Toronto, not enough changes to have much of an impact even beyond the two weeks.
Here’s how serious the situation has become:
Cases in Toronto and across Ontario are soaring – far outpacing the rate of vaccination.
The vast majority of new cases are variants of concern, especially in Toronto.
The most common of these variants, the B.1.1.7 first identified in the UK, is approximately 50% more transmissible, setting off a dramatic rise in case numbers that will continue to increase exponentially.
This variant is far more serious than classic COVID. Data released by the Ontario government’s independent health expertsthis week shows that those infected by it are 100% more likely to end up in Intensive Care and 50% more likely to die.
COVID patients admitted to ICU continue to get younger.
Despite vaccinations and the resulting protection of older residents, there has been a 41% increase in hospitalizations in the past two weeks.
The number of patients needing ICU is higher than ever and rising, overwhelming hospital capacity and creating an enormous backlog of cancelled surgeries.
Other less common variants are circulating in the community. These appear to be more resistant to antibodies created when you get COVID, or after you are vaccinated.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, a health expert providing advice to the provincial government, predicted today that, had nothing been done, the number of daily cases in Ontario could hit 12,000 by the end of the month – up from an already alarming 2500 today.
Dr. Brown suggested that those numbers would be greatly reduced by a Stay At Home order and restrictions similar to what were imposed on December 26.
The Province did not do that.
In Toronto, which was already in the Grey lockdown zone, the only immediate difference is the end to outdoor restaurant patios. This is perhaps necessary, especially as some patrons and establishments were not fully observing all restrictions. But it’s very unfortunate, given the relative safety of outdoor activities and how much local restaurants were counting on this business to carry them through to the summer.
Fortunately, the opening of indoor hair cutting, nail treatments, and tattoo parlours that the Province announced last week, to take effect in Toronto on April 12, has been cancelled.
Otherwise, retail stays the same – open indoors with 50% capacity for food stores and pharmacies and 25% capacity for non-essential retail.
Please recognize the much higher risk you are now facing. Regardless of what the Prince does or doesn’t do, you can keep safe by taking all the usual measures: if you must come into contact with anyone outside your immediate household, take the same precautions you would if you knew they were infectious – stay at least six feet away, wear a mask that fits snugly around your mouth and nose, wash your hands if you touch anything that might be contaminated.