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Ontario nurses say province's reopening plan threatens health of the public

The professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario says the province's decision to continue loosening restrictions despite concerning COVID-19 indicators is threatening people's lives.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) released a statement this past weekend urging the government to halt reopening plans amid the worsening third wave.

"The minister of health has said the next few weeks are critical and she is correct," said RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun in the statement.

"However, at the same time Minister Elliott is warning Ontarians about the dangers variants of the virus pose, the government is issuing contradictory messages by relaxing public health measures designed to protect people's health. That's why we are urging Premier Ford to scale back reopening plans."

On March 19, the province announced that it would be increasing indoor dining capacity limits in regions in the red and orange zones, and it also updated grey zone rules to allow for outdoor dining

But on March 26, the province used the Emergency Brake to move Hamilton into the grey-lockdown zone and the regions of Timiskaming and Eastern Ontario into the red zone, suggesting that a third wave is in fact underway. 

Ontario then saw its fifth straight day with more than 2,000 new cases on March 29, thanks to the highly contagious variants of concern. Hospital ICU levels also show that COVID-19 patients occupied 401 beds as of March 26, according to Critical Care Services Ontario, which is well above the threshold at which hospitals say they can cope.  

The province has also meanwhile announced plans to allow personal care services to reopen for appointment in grey zones on April 12, though Toronto Mayor John Tory warned Monday morning that it isn't guaranteed.

"We need to act now to prevent this third wave from being more catastrophic than the second wave," Grinspun said. "We know with certainty that the virus variants spread mush faster. We also fear it makes people far sicker and can result in much higher rates of death."

Instead of reopening the province, Grinspun says the government should be strengthening public health restrictions in order to contain the spread of the virus, allow the health system to keep functioning and keep schools open and safe. 

The CEO also wants the government to redouble its efforts to roll out vaccines.

"Nurses know small businesses are suffering and call on government to help by providing funding to get them through the next few months," she said. 

"We will all go back to patronizing our local businesses when the pandemic is under control. However, we will never get back the lives lost to COVID-19."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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