Toronto officials welcomed a provincial stay-at-home order announced by Premier Doug Ford Wednesday and applauded changes that will see more people vaccinated sooner in hot spot neighbourhoods, but cautioned that there is no way to vaccinate our way out of a third wave or coronavirus infections.
“I want to thank Premier Ford, and the provincial government for moving ahead today with further public health measures to help put down the third wave that is currently raging,” Mayor John Tory said during a news conference shortly after Ford’s announcement. “These decisions are difficult and require courage.”
Tory said that the new rules around retail will help “to address some of the unfairness that has existed as between small business owners and big box stores” and he also welcomed a pause on residential evictions, calling it “the right thing to do.”
Tory also said that modifications made by the province to Phase 2 of its vaccination program will help the city reach more people more quickly.
Under those changes, all adults over 18 years of age in hot spot neighbourhoods will receive a shot in Phase 2. The plan previously called for people over 50 years of age to get a shot in Phase 2.
The changes will also see mobile clinics and pop-up teams take vaccines to large work places, places of worship, high-rise buildings and other settings.
“Our public health officials have been very clear that we must get the vaccine to the neighbourhoods that need it the most and that this data-driven approach will ensure that we get essential workers and their families vaccinated,” Tory said. “We're going to take vaccines to the neighborhoods where essential workers live and where they work, and it is my hope that we'll see the success of this strategy, and its expansion in the coming weeks.”
Phase 2 of the provincial plan is slated to run until July and city officials said Wednesday that they are still working out the details of the modified plan.
We can’t ‘vaccinate our way out of the third wave’
However Toronto's top doctor cautioned that the restrictions imposed by the Ford government Wednesday are necessary for now and that even a ramped-up vaccine program is not enough to keep people safe.
“Our job now is to respect and follow those measures. We do not have enough time, nor do we have enough vaccine to vaccinate our way out of this third wave,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
She pointed out that over the past week, Toronto alone has seen nearly 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 and urged people to adhere to the restrictions, as difficult as they may be.
Supporting the idea of vaccinating people in hardest-hit areas first, de Villa said COVID-19 has disproportionately affected some neighbourhoods — largely areas which are home to frontline workers who cannot work remotely — and that targeting those areas with increased vaccinations will help keep everyone safe.
“By including specific focus in our vaccination plan, we begin to create a new front line of immunized people who are most at risk of acquiring and spreading COVID-19, but whom, through their vaccination now give COVID nowhere to go,” she said. “This in turn, creates a protective benefit for everyone.”
De Villa also said that the expanded push will help reduce the waves of unbooked appointments that the city has seen as it has moved closer to vaccinating successive age groups.
When the details of the revised plan are hammered out, Ontario Health Teams, hospital mobile clinics and pop-ups will be vaccinating people age 18 and older in Toronto’s 111 hot spot neighbourhoods, as identified by postal codes. Fixed vaccination hubs and immunization clinics will also help in the effort, according to the city.
As of Monday, all nine of the city’s mass immunization clinics will be operational, with a capacity of roughly 8,000 doses per day.
The city continues to vaccinate and book appointments for all those who have become eligible so far.