Toronto doctor warns against reopening the economy to avoid a dangerous third wave
Following the release of new provincial modelling that predicts a deadly third wave if public health restrictions are lifted thanks to the presence of new COVID-19 variants of concern, a prominent Toronto doctor is warning against the government's plan to gradually lift the stay-at-home order across Ontario.
ICU physician Dr. Michael Warner has gained a large social media following over the course of the pandemic as a result of his informative videos and tweets, and he's now using his platform to advise the province to change its course of action.
"Yesterday we learned from the modelling group that while we have made impressive strides in Ontario with respect to our efforts to control COVID-19, the variants of concern pose a clear and present threat that could undo all the progress that we've made so far," says Warner in the clip posted Friday morning.
"So we're at a crossroads in Ontario, and I'm very concerned about the path that Dr. Williams is choosing to take."
The modelling released by the province's science table Thursday warns that COVID-19 case counts will likely begin to increase again in late February as the more contagious U.K. variant spreads throughout the community, and increased ICU admissions are expected to follow roughly two weeks later.
The projections also warn that case counts could rise "dramatically" and lead to a disastrous third wave if public health measures are relaxed, with nearly 18,000 cases a day by the end of March possible in the worst case scenario.
In the "most likely scenario," Ontario can expect to see between 5,000 to 6,000 cases a day by the end of March with no restrictions in place.
During the 165 days of Wave 1 (March 20-Aug 31) 1228 #COVID patients were cared for in Ontario's ICUs.— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) February 11, 2021
Wave 2 has been twice as bad with 2394 #COVID ICU patients admitted in the ~160 days since Sep 1.
We must be proactive and do everything possible to prevent Wave 3.
But despite this announcement, the province is still in the process of gradually lifting lockdown measures, with three regions already placed back into the government's COVID-19 framework this week and the remaining regions expected to follow in the coming weeks.
Warner, on the other hand, argues that this is simply not the right approach.
If @ongov is concerned enough about variants and their impact on school safety/community transmission to change plans for > 2mm kids (plus parents/teachers etc), they should be consistent and defer opening non-essential retail for 2-4 weeks after schools reopen.— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) February 11, 2021
"Let's get school reopened. Let's do it safely. Let's get paid sick leave for our essential workers. Let's vaccinate all the vulnerable members of our society, especially the frail elderly," he says in the video. "Then let's reassess, let's evaluate, let's look at the data. Then we can more confidently reopen the economy in a more sustainable way."
Does it make sense to reopen schools in Toronto/York/Peel the same day (Feb 16) non-essential retail is scheduled to reopen in adjacent Durham/Simcoe/Halton?— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) February 11, 2021
People will move across regions.
The root cause of subsequent changes in transmission will be difficult to discern.
In the clip, Warner also emphasizes the importance of prioritizing reopening the healthcare system to non-COVID care and doing right by the province's frontline healthcare workers.
"We've been working full-out for almost a year now and while the case numbers going down does provide us with hope, the fact that we're foreshadowing a third wave really takes that hope away," he says.
"We've cancelled too many cases, we've filled out too many death certificates, we've witnessed too many Zoom meetings. We're running out of gas and we need the government to put us in a position to succeed so that we can move past this instead of crawling through the mud as we have been day after day after day."
I'm confused:— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) February 11, 2021
-All non-essential retail to open: but stay home
-School safety important: let's open non-essential retail
-VOCs spreading: let's increase opportunities for interaction and spread
-Care deficit in hospitals: let's make it harder for them to catch up
The Ford government is meanwhile expected to announce which stages of the COVID-19 framework regions will soon be moving into later today.
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