Top doctor says decision will be made this week about whether Toronto can move to red zone
Toronto residents have been eagerly awaiting the news of whether or not the city will get to enter the less-restrictive red zone of the province's COVID-19 response framework come March 22, and it seems a decision on the matter will be made by health officials later this week.
Speaking during the city's press briefing Monday afternoon, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said discussions about where the city fits in the framework are underway, and she also outlined Toronto's current COVID-19 situation.
"We should all be concerned by what we're seeing both here in Toronto and when we look around the world," she said.
The doctor said that while there are many reasons to be optimistic with the news of increased vaccine supply, the pandemic isn't over yet, and the city's seven-day moving average for new cases is up from 354 on March 9 to 420 on March 15.
The most important thing you can do to protect against #COVID19 is to get vaccinated as soon as you're eligible. Pls support loved ones over 80 if they need help booking their #Vaccine, & consult your doctor & credible sources on Qs about vaccines: https://t.co/P0m0iUf2GW— Dr. Eileen de Villa (@epdevilla) March 15, 2021
de Villa added that 3,516 cases have screened positive for mutations since the beginning of February, and she explained that many countries in Europe — including Italy, Germany, France, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic — are now facing surging case rates thanks to variants of concern that have triggered new lockdown measures and increased restrictions.
"Here, in Toronto, the variants raise the question about where we go from here," she said.
"A decision will be made this week about where we best fit in the provincial COVID-19 response framework. I want to be clear, I only recommend restrictions when they are necessary to protect the greatest number of people from widespread risk of infection. I share everyone's desire to get back to normal."
Other than COVID-19 indicators, a number of factors will also be taken into account when making the decision, said de Villa, including employment, mental health and regional realities.
Mayor John Tory echoed de Villa's comments Monday, though he said last week that he'd like to see the city enter the red zone as soon as possible. In this stage, restaurants, bars, cafes and hair salons are all permitted to reopen.
Anonymous cell phone data shared with city officials meanwhile shows a decline in the number of people spending time at home lately, according to de Villa, and it also demonstrates that Toronto residents are travelling to other areas with fewer restrictions.
But if we want to be able to move forward in the province's framework, she said residents must continue to practice self-protection measures such as masks and distancing, and they should also get vaccinated as soon as they're eligible.
In response to the Ontario Hospital Association's announcement today that the province has officially entered a third wave of COVID-19, de Villa said it's still too early to determine whether that's the case in Toronto.
We’re now in wave 3: New data from Ont.'s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. W/new VOC cases steeply rising & ICU #s trending up (nearing 350 today), strong adherence to public health measures is urgently needed to prevent overwhelming hospitals: https://t.co/bY90oTlDMz pic.twitter.com/hYl8twUhRs— Ont. Hospital Assoc. (@OntHospitalAssn) March 15, 2021
"The pandemic is not over. It will be, we are nearing the finish line, but we're not there yet," she said.
"I know everybody is tired of hearing 'We're almost there' and frustrated with living as we're required to live in order to protect ourselves, and protect the people around us," she continued.
"I share everyone's desire to get back to normal. Let's aim for a good summer, let's finish strong by continuing to practice the steps for self-protection. This is a choice that only we can make for ourselves and for those around us while vaccination efforts ramp up in our community."
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