ontario lockdown

Ontario hospitals calling for strict four-week lockdown in parts of the province

As cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket in Ontario and hospitalizations increase, the Ontario Hospital Association — which represents the province's hospitals and professional associations including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists — is calling for strict, decisive action from the provincial government. 

Following an emergency board meeting Wednesday, the association released an open letter calling on the province to take action by implementing a stricter, expanded lockdown.

"Ontario remains firmly caught in the grasp of a major second wave of COVID-19. Daily infection is now above 2,000 new cases per day. Hospitalization is increasing rapidly, as is the occupancy of intensive care units," reads the letter. 

"A growing number of hospitals are grappling with outbreaks, and many have already had to cancel scheduled surgeries and other activity. Ontario's health care professionals are being asked to carry a very heavy burden. The average length of stay of COVID-19 patients has decreased, but hospitals are seeing more of them, which is accelerating demands on health care workers."

Currently, there are 932 Ontarians hospitalized with COVID-19, 256 of which are in ICUs and 157 of which are on ventilators.

The letter calls the current situation "extremely serious," adding that if members of the public choose to ignore public health recommendations to stay home and instead gather with those outside their households over the holidays, "the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario's hospitals."

This is why the OHA is calling on the provincial government to implement and enforce a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with a weekly incidence rate of 40/100,000 or higher.

"This is in keeping with the criteria laid out in the government's COVID-19 Response Framework, and is necessary to protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario and to ensure that hospitals do not face a devastating surge in COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care in January," notes the letter. 

Toronto and Peel Region entered the lockdown phase of the province's framework on Nov. 23, and it's set to expire on Dec. 21, though Toronto Mayor John Tory said he'd like to see more measures implemented going forward — not less. 

York Region and Windsor-Essex, on the other hand, entered the lockdown stage on Monday, Dec. 14.

In any public health units that do not have a weekly infection rate of 40/100,000 population or higher, the OHA says the government must give priority to the reproduction rate and test positivity trends, in addition to the infection rate, when determining whether additional public health measures may be required.

Finally, the OHA is also recommending that the Grey-Lockdown stage of the province's framework — where Toronto currently is — be re-evaluated by independent public health and epidemiological experts to determine if additional, stricter provisions are necessary.

The OHA says implementing this expanded lockdown would allow the province to focus on high-risk workplaces and enhancements to the testing and contact tracing system, "so that we do not slide backwards again after re-opening."

The association also says the government must provide the essential financial supports required to help businesses make it through the lockdown, and programs such as paid sick leave and isolation accommodation for people with COVID-19 who do not have the financial means to avoid working outside the home are also necessary. 

"The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines means the end of the pandemic is in sight – watching health care workers receive the vaccine this week offered an uplifting light at the end of the tunnel. However, the last stretch of a marathon is the hardest," reads the letter. 

"We must deal with today's crisis by bending the pandemic curve so that the vaccination program can proceed as quickly and effectively as possible. We are grateful to Premier Ford and his government for their strong support of Ontario's hospitals during this difficult year. 

As the Premier says, we are all on the same team. If we rally once again as a province and a country, we will beat this virus – and that will be the right time to celebrate together."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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