More than 10k people from Toronto visited Blue Mountain in first week of reopening
As public health restrictions continue to be relaxed throughout the province, region-hopping appears to once again be on the rise — prompting concerns about the potential for a deadly third wave.
According to new cell phone mobility data from marketing firm Environics Analytics, which was shared by the Toronto Star Wednesday, far more people are on the move than before health measures were loosened, with over 10,000 Toronto residents visiting Blue Mountain (currently in the green zone) during the first week of reopening alone.
The Star reports that York Region also saw more than 100,000 additional visitors from Toronto in the week the region moved into the red zone compared to the previous week — representing a 15 per cent increase.
Hastings Prince Edward County, which moved into the green zone on Feb. 10 and was one of the first public health units to reopen restaurants, movie theatres and hair salons, likewise saw an influx of 25,431 Toronto residents visiting the area that week, marking a 66 per cent increase from the week prior.
Public health officials in Toronto and beyond warned against region-hopping ahead of the loosening of restrictions, but the practice has been consistently widespread each time select regions have reopened while others remained under stricter health protection measures.
In December, for example, approximately 101,500 people from Toronto, Peel and York travelled outside their home region to various shopping centres that were still operating in nearby jurisdictions before the province-wide shutdown came into effect.
But the risk of transmission is greater now that COVID-19 variants of concern are spreading rapidly throughout Ontario, and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa warned Monday that preliminary data from the most recent period suggests almost 40 per cent of reported cases in Toronto are now screening positive as a variant of concern.
"These are exciting and promising times, with vaccine supply on the increase. But please, don't mistake progress for completion," she said during the city's COVID-19 press briefing.
"We have a ways to go yet and I want to remind you — and we've seen this before — if we give COVID-19 an inch, it will take a mile. It will take any opportunity to establish itself and spread. So I have to ask you for more patience while we get millions of people in Toronto vaccinated," she continued.
"We will get there, but in the meantime I see protective measures like masks and distancing measures being abandoned in many places, particularly in the United States — and while I understand the weariness I also know the reality. COVID-19 has not gone away — it and its variants are still out there, just looking for a person to infect."
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