Toronto and Peel want lockdown orders extended for at least two extra weeks
The medical officers of health for both Toronto and Peel have officially joined forces to request an extension of all current lockdown orders in their respective regions from the provincial government.
Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa announced the news in a sobering address about the city's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday afternoon, noting: "I have never been as worried about the future as I am today."
In an effort to mitigate what they call "a serious risk" to people in the GTA, de Villa and Peel Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence C. Loh sent a letter to their counterpart at the provincial level on Feb. 13 outlining their concerns.
"We are writing to request that the Province delay assessing our regions' readiness to move into the COVID-19 Response Framework until March 9th, 2021 at the earliest, based on regional indicators," reads the letter to Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
"Any relaxation of measures, like that proposed for February 22nd, is expected to give rise to increased COVID-19 and VOC transmission over and above what is already occurring," it continues. "This, in turn, can be expected to result in increased COVID-19 related illnesses, outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths."
In light of the COVID-19 variants spreading throughout the city, @EPDevilla recommended a 2 week extension of the lockdown in Toronto.— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 17, 2021
This was a difficult decision to make but our main priority is the safe reopening of schools as we monitor the broader impacts of the variants. pic.twitter.com/YuBJ7V9j6h
This afternoon, the municipal government threw its full weight behind the doctors in support of keeping Toronto and Peel in shutdown mode and under stay-at-home orders for at least two weeks longer than the province's current February 22 transition date.
"Today, Mayor John Tory, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg announced the City is requesting that Toronto remain in the Shutdown Zone... until March 9 at the earliest in order to protect the healthcare system and save lives," reads a statement issued by the city on Monday.
"The request stems from significant concern around new COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC) that are appearing in settings across Toronto. Variants have now been identified in long-term care homes, hospitals, a shelter and a meat packing plant."
Toronto, Peel, York and the North Bay Parry Sound District are the only regions that remain in shutdown, but stay-at-home orders are set to expire this coming Monday, February 22.
Unless the order is extended, these regions will rejoin the province's colour-coded COVID-19 framework (most-likely at the grey-lockdown level, meaning little would actually change.)
However minute the differences between provincewide shutdown (where we are right now) and grey-zone lockdown (where we're expected to be when stay-at-home orders are lifted), de Villa and Loh want Toronto to stay under the former orders until at least March 9.
Essentially, they're asking the province to push reopening plans back a full two weeks (at least) for both regions in order to prevent what they believe will be a catastrophic third wave.
"I know extending the lockdown will cause continuing hurt for many businesses. But I also know we have followed the public health advice throughout this pandemic so that we can keep as many people healthy as possible and save as many lives as we possibly can," said Tory of the request on Wednesday.
"Despite the huge dislocation the pandemic has caused for people and businesses, the worst mistake we could make right now is to ignore the advice of our medical experts and to begin to re-open too quickly."
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