Ontario health experts say new lockdown restrictions aren't enough to beat third wave
Ontario is in the midst of a dangerous, out-of-control third wave that has landed more COVID-19 patients in the ICU at once than ever before, and to say that health experts are less than impressed by the provincial government's response is an understatement.
Premier Doug Ford announced a new provincewide shutdown on Thursday afternoon that will see many non-essential businesses shuttered and gathering limits reduced, but doctors working on the front lines of the crisis say these measures will do little to actually address where the majority of transmission is happening.
"Despite what @fordnation says. My intubated 30-50 year old #COVID patients were not congregating by choice," wrote ICU physician Dr. Michael Warner on Twitter following the province's announcement.
"They were working in essential jobs where they have the highest exposure risk and the least protection. Do not insult their sacrifice."
50% of Toronto’s COVID cases have been people on low incomes.— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) April 1, 2021
79% of cases are racialized people.
60%+ of workplace outbreaks have been in frontline settings like food processing and warehouses.
No lockdown will protect workers if they can’t stay home if sick. Paid sick leave.
Experts have been highlighting the risks faced by essential workers in Ontario for months now, calling for paid sick leave and targeted vaccine efforts to help the province's most vulnerable communities, but to no avail.
And with variants of concern creating a more dire situation in the province than we've seen to date, 153 ICU physicians penned a letter to Ford's team earlier today reiterating the need for measures beyond those outlined in the provincial framework.
On the same day we have 430 #COVID ICU patients in Ontario, 153 ICU physicians have written a letter to @fordnation @celliottability and Dr. Williams.— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) April 1, 2021
Immediate restrictions beyond the current Framework are required to protect Ontarians from variant-driven Wave 3. pic.twitter.com/TmCKPlHj07
"We are caring for people who have contracted COVID-19 at work, or who have followed all the rules and only gone out for groceries," reads the letter.
"The impact of this virus has been disproportionate, infecting those with the highest exposure risk, commonly from lower income and racialized communities. The current measures and framework are not working to contain the spread of the virus."
Just a reminder - Peel and Toronto have been in "lockdown" since Nov - and cases continue to rise. We blame restaurants, bars, homesense etc - but the data seems to show who gets COVID/variants, and dies. It's communities of essential workers (blue is essential workers). pic.twitter.com/LhhyeqdFJc— Zain Chagla (@zchagla) April 1, 2021
Also prior to the announcement, Ontario's COVID-19 Science Table released new modelling predicting as many as 6,000 new daily cases by April.
"Stay-at-home orders will control the surge, protect access to care, and increase the chance of the summer Ontarians want," reads the modelling presentation.
But contrary to the recommendation, the government's announcement did not include a stay-at-home order for the province.
"We are not going to be producing a stay-at-home order because we saw last time that it had tremendous ill effect on both children and adults," said Health Minister Christine Elliot when asked about the measure during a press conference.
"And especially with the warmer weather coming, we want people to be able to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, assuming that everyone continues to follow the public health safety precautions."
More than a year into the pandemic, healthcare workers are understandably frustrated and fed up with the province's reluctance to listen to expert advice, especially considering that the government has prioritized expanding hospital and ICU capacities over introducing the kind of preventative measures many say are needed.
This is busy, but focus on the top left hand corner: that is the neighbourhoods with the highest COVID level, and they have the lowest vaccination numbers. We aren't vaccinating the most vulnerable populations. This is an incredible, incredible failure. pic.twitter.com/KOfKEsMH8g— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) April 1, 2021
And as experts were sounding the alarm over the approaching dangerous third wave for months, the premier and his team chose to continue loosening restrictions across the province.
Following the province's announcement, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath took to Twitter to voice her concerns about the government's approach.
"Doug Ford walked us into this lockdown with eyes wide open. While experts were warning him of explosive growth of more infectious & more deadly variants, he cancelled public health protections. It should never have come to this. The third wave didn't have to be this horrific," she wrote.
"Once again today's announcement is too little and far too late. The public health measures fall short of what many experts are calling for. That will only prolong the suffering — it's the same failed approach that got us to where we are today," she continued.
"This is more mixed messaging. No small biz financial supports. No paid sick days. No comprehensive workplace testing. No class sizes cap. No plan to get essential workers vaccinated. No paid time off to get the shot. This approach failed before and I'm fearful it will fail again."
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