Toronto mayor says he's determined to see lockdown end after two-week extension
Premier Doug Ford announced last week that, at the request of the city's medical officer of health, Toronto would be staying under lockdown and stay-at-home orders for at least another 14 days, but Mayor John Tory said Monday that he is determined to see the city transition into the province's framework when the extension expires.
Speaking during the city's press briefing Monday afternoon, Tory said a promising, substantial decline in per cent positivity of tests in long-term care homes (from 10.9 per cent to 0.6 per cent) shows that vaccination efforts have been effective and that the city is on the right track.
He added that a new report from Transportation Services shows that traffic in the city increased significantly last week, and he encouraged residents to instead focus on hunkering down and practicing self-protection measures over the next two weeks so the city can finally transition out of shutdown mode and into the colour-coded framework.
"We need to stay the course over the next two weeks," he said. "I am very determined to see that Toronto can start a transition at that time, and not later. But that rests on the health advice. I am confident though, that we can find a way, we can find a way to open safely and to stay open."
Tory also said that while he does hope to see the city move towards reopening in two weeks' time, he believes a plan to accompany that transition to help people make safe and responsible decisions when going out is needed.
"The lockdown has been working to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community, but please, don't get complacent or give up on this work," the mayor urged.
But while Mayor Tory appeared to be fairly confident that Toronto will be ready to move out of shutdown mode come March 9, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa offered a more cautious outlook.
We're taking steps that will allow us to make future decisions with confidence, and steps to protect the ground we’ve gained, because the virus still has the upper hand. Here are my remarks from today's media briefing: https://t.co/sEo2NafnNz— Dr. Eileen de Villa (@epdevilla) February 22, 2021
She has been warning about the dangers of new COVID-19 variants of concern for weeks now, and she said Monday that there are 71 confirmed variant of concern cases in Toronto as well as another 511 cases that have screened positive for mutations and are expected to be confirmed as variants of concern in the coming days.
"Last week, I said that while indicators seemed to be heading in the right direction, there were also warning lights flashing," said the city's top doctor.
"I want to illustrate those warning lights today — because by delaying a move toward reduced restrictions we are taking steps that will allow us to make future decisions with confidence, and steps to protect the ground we have gained, because the virus still has the upper hand."
She went on to explain that the number of confirmed variant of concern cases went from 39 on Feb. 15 to 71 just one week later, and she also said the overall per cent positivity rate in COVID-19 tests in Toronto is 4.8 per cent — which is still "too high to feel good about."
Adding that the city still faces exponential growth when it comes to the more transmissible variants of concern, de Villa said infection rates could potentially explode here as they have in hard-hit regions in the U.S. and Western Europe.
But de Villa and Tory agreed that the vaccine rollout working the way it should offers hope for the future, and they both said the next two weeks will be a critical period for determining where Toronto's COVID-19 situation is headed next.
"My optimism is rooted in the fact that I think people really want this to be over, the lockdown. That starts with businesspeople but I think right close behind them are individual citizens who want to go to their gym, want to get a haircut, want to be able to go shopping in different places, even on a limited basis to begin with," Tory told reporters Monday.
"And so the point I was making is that I'm optimistic about the ability of the people of Toronto to put in two more weeks of really solid compliance with the public health... I think that if we do that, then there is reason to be optimistic that we can begin a transition to a different place.
"But it's really going to depend on what people do in the couple of weeks."
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