easter 2021 toronto

Toronto officials plead with people to refrain from gathering during Easter

While Toronto residents are likely counting down the days until the Easter long weekend arrives to give many a much-needed break, the city's top doctor is asking that residents refrain from gathering during the holiday to prevent case rates from increasing more than they already are. 

Speaking during the city's COVID-19 press briefing Monday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa warned that while vaccine efforts are ongoing, now is simply not the time to gather with people outside your household. 

"The data continue to paint a picture of worsening resurgence and escalating cases," she said. "Add to that Passover is underway, Good Friday and the Easter weekend are in just a few days and Ramandan begins just one week thereafter."

Toronto reported 67o new cases of COVID-19 Monday, and de Villa said 7,752 cases have screened positive as variants of concern to date. She added that there have been 4,155 new cases since just last Thursday, and 89 more people have been admitted to hospitals in that same time frame.

"I am hearing from colleagues at Toronto hospitals that increasingly, admissions are of younger people and often directly to the ICU," she said, adding that 227 (almost 35 per cent) of today's cases are in those between the ages of 20 and 39.

And while the province continues to loosen restrictions in Ontario, health officials have been sounding the alarm about the third wave's deadly potential thanks to the more dangerous and transmissible variants of concern.

Now, with spring holidays in the mix, de Villa is as worried as ever.

"Unfortunately, our track record around holidays isn't very good," she said Monday, explaining that Toronto's seven-day moving average increased from 660 cases to about 1,000 in the two weeks following Christmas.

"People gathered and this caused the virus to spread. Now is not the time to gather. We are not well enough protected. There is no reason to believe that history won't repeat itself. In fact, we have every reason to believe that it could be worse given the transmissibility of variants of concern."

As Toronto is set to stay in the grey zone of the province's response framework for the foreseeable future, indoor social gatherings with members of other households remain forbidden.

Individuals who live alone, including seniors, are allowed to have exclusive close contact with one other household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation, but that is the sole exception outlined by the province.

Dr. de Villa is also reminding residents that, while some people have already been vaccinated, it takes two weeks for the body to create an immune response following a dose, and the CDC in the U.S. says only fully vaccinated people should gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without masks or distancing. 

"We know there aren't a lot of fully vaccinated people in Toronto yet. We'll get there, but we're not there now," she said.

"For anyone who misses hugging someone else, anyone who wants to see their grandchildren grow year-over-year, anyone who wants to spend time close to someone else — without thinking about whether it's safe or not — the vaccines are the answer," she continued.

"If you've had yours, please don't gamble with it yet, especially with the variants dominating the infections in Toronto and case counts rising and particularly if it's just the first dose you've had. Have confidence in the protection the vaccines provide, but don't risk anyone's health quite yet."

Lead photo by

Claudio Schwarz

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