More restrictions in GTA and Ottawa: public health warns to follow measures in areas where COVID-19 isn’t as prevalent

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Dr. David Williams

Toronto, Peel and Ottawa are facing new restrictions at midnight to try to slow the tide of COVID-19 in the three hard hit areas. It was a decision Premier Doug Ford kept him awake Thursday night.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, says 71 per cent of the new COVID-19 cases in the province were in the three regions. Today, Ontario registered 939 new cases in the province – the highest ever during this pandemic.

Public health officials announced today that indoor dining and drinking at bars and restaurants will be banned for 28 days. Gyms and casinos must close . There is also a new limit on public events of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors in the three region. Wedding receptions will be suspended starting Tuesday.

Officials say the scientific data shows the evidence of transmission in restaurants is 2.8 times higher for people who go to restaurants.

Adalsteinn Brown (the dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto says there has been a “dramatic growth in the per cent of the tests that are positive.” It’s now at two per cent.

He says in the last week there have been “very clear accelerating trends…it’s a more worrisome and challenging picture we presented a week ago.”

Ford echoed Brown’s analysis.

“All trends are going in the wrong direction. Left unchecked, we risk worse cases scenarios seen in Italy and New York City,” he told reporters Friday. “As long as this virus is spreading at this rate in the community, our long-term-care homes remain vulnerable. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care have increased by 250 per cent. If current trends continue, Ontario ICU admissions are predicted to more than triple in less than 30 days. Our hospitals would be overwhelmed and we can’t let this happen. We have to do everything possible to avoid widespread lockdowns, and we cannot go back to Stage 1.”

“We need to keep our schools open and protect our long term care homes. That’s our top priority. Nothing matters more. We need to play the long game by making difficult decisions now. We can flatten the second wave. We can get the economy back stronger and sooner.

“I cannot stress enough how difficult, and how painful, it was to make this decision,” Ford added. “My heart breaks for these folks, and I understand what this decision means to each and every one of you. I can tell you I didn’t sleep last night. Believe me, this weighs heavy on me for making this decision. I know what this will do to businesses who are already struggling.”

“We need to rally around these small businesses. Please support them as much as possible. Please order take-out. We can all play a part in supporting our restaurants through this difficult time.”

Meantime Williams says the spread of COVID-19 is “very much varied in area to area’ and “if everyone had adhered to our public measures….these steps would not be necessary.”

He’s urging people to remember the most important public health measures, keep six feet apart from others, wash your hands, wear a mask when you can keep your physical distance. And Williams is encouraging people to keep a small circle of contacts – guidelines people seemed to abandoned at the end of summer.

“We’re back to the old behaviour – we can’t slide (on following the measures) all fall…so the things you do want to have we can have,” he says noting people will want to get together around Christmas.