The window of time to prevent another deadly mass outbreak of COVID-19 in Ontario is closing, according to 38 leading physicians from hospitals across the province.
Without swift and serious action, they argue, we could soon be looking at another lengthy "widespread closure of non-essential businesses and schools."
"Given the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, and the speed at which this virus spreads, now is the time to put public health measures in place to immediately limit opportunities for disease transmission," reads a release issued by the Ontario Hospital Association Thursday morning.
The association, comprised of doctors and leaders from major Ontario health networks, is calling upon the provincial government to "immediately place restrictions on non-essential businesses and activities that facilitate social gatherings and increase opportunities for exposure."
This would include all dine-in restaurants and bars, nightclubs, gyms, theatres and places of worship.
Strong statement from Ontario's leading infectious disease experts and epidemiologists. @fordnation @TBayMOH @celliottability must move quickly and heed their advice. Thank you @DFisman and Dr. Allison McGeer. pic.twitter.com/yyj2Bc9FkN— Dr. Christopher Leighton (@ccleighton) September 24, 2020
"The province must also ask non-essential businesses to have employees work from home and instruct universities and colleges to offer classes online, wherever possible," reads the letter.
"Without immediate action, we know from international experience that this extremely contagious and life-threatening virus will spread rapidly through our schools, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings."
The doctors point out that Ontario reported 478 cases on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of approximately 400 cases/day — a figure that had not been seen since early May when the pandemic was at its height.
"At this juncture, the Public Health Agency of Canada is warning that Canada will reach 5,000 new daily cases by October," write the doctors.
"Other jurisdictions have underestimated the speed of which this virus can spread and are now facing the consequence of increased hospitalization rates, including a rise in intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and more deaths."
👇👇 NOW 👇👇 #onpoli— Rupinder (Rup) Sahsi, MD 🧠💬 (@hotSahs) September 24, 2020
"...immediately place restrictions on non-essential businesses and activities that facilitate social gatherings and increase opportunities for exposure... ask non-essential businesses to have employees work from home..."
Ontario started rolling out its fall COVID-19 preparedness plan earlier this week, but to date the only concrete actions announced as part of the plan are an aggressive flu shot campaign and the expansion of testing to 60 pharmacies.
The province also scaled back social gathering limits on Saturday for all residents, putting a Stage 2-level cap of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors on all gatherings after previously opening it up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outside.
Public health officials continue to urge residents to follow all recommended measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a face covering, frequent handwashing, and maintaining physical distance from those outside their household or social circle.
The hospital association is urging Ford to do more, right away, before the situation spirals out of control.
"Now is not the time for hesitancy," reads their letter. "We must regain a firm grip on the virus to ensure those who are most susceptible in our province stay protected."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO