Having friends over for coffee is not social distancing: Toronto's top doctor
Published Wednesday, March 18, 2020 5:58PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 19, 2020 4:59AM EDT
Toronto’s chief medical officer of health called on residents Wednesday to go the extra step to practice social distancing as much as possible, saying that Toronto is at a critical juncture where we should anticipate a steep rise in cases.
“We will continue to see an increasing number of cases, but the extent to which that curve peaks all depends on how well we apply social distancing,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said during a press briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon.
De Villa said the extent to which businesses have heeded public health warnings so far has been “amazing.”
She said that just four per cent of those bars and restaurants checked for compliance with an order against dine-in service were found to be in violation on St. Patrick’s Day.
However she said the city can and must still do better.
“This is a new concept for us. We are new to social distancing, so I want to be perfectly clear; Having your friends over for dinner or coffee is not social distancing,” de Villa said.
She said the same goes for playdates for children, visiting friends and family in hospital or long-term care homes and stopping at a grocery store to stock up after travel.
“This is a challenging time. Your local, federal and provincial governments are taking extreme action, as you have seen. Extreme action is also needed from you,” de Villa said. “We all need to take the social responsibilities seriously.”
Her warning comes as Toronto reports seven new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. Eleven cases are also under investigation for possible community transmission, de Villa said.
Earlier in the day, provincial health officials confirmed at least 23 new cases in the province. Because the situation is evolving so rapidly, health officials have not been clear about the extent to which some of those cases may overlap with local numbers.
De Villa implored those who aren’t currently doing the following to do so as much as possible:
- Avoiding contact with others
- Keeping at least six feet apart from other people
- Staying home and only going out for the absolute essential needs like food and medicine
- Working from home
- Helping employees to stay home and to work from home
- Doing your grocery shopping online or have someone else do it for you if necessary
“I’m asking everyone once again to make every effort and take every opportunity to stay home and practice social distancing,” de Villa said.
“We know from other jurisdictions that social distancing works, but just like any other medicine, it has to be applied at the right dose for the right amount of time.”
She said applying the practice properly so that it is effective at halting the spread of the virus could take weeks, as it has in other jurisdictions. However she cautioned that not doing so quickly enough – as was the case in places like South Korea and Japan – could have disastrous consequences.
As federal public health officials said earlier in the day, de Villa echoed the idea that Canada and Toronto could see a second wave of cases, even if the number does drop off at some point.
“We shouldn’t be surprised if there is a second wave of disease and we should be preparing for that,” de Villa said.
However de Villa said that at the moment we are at the point in the infection curve where we should expect to see a steep increase.
“We are just at the beginning of that increase, not only here in Toronto but in Canada,” she said. “What comes after the curve depends on us.”