Indoor gatherings need to be reduced: Toronto’s top doctor answers your COVID-19 questions
Web Staff, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, September 16, 2020 10:33PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 16, 2020 10:34PM EDT
Toronto’s top doctor is suggesting that limits on indoor gathering sizes should be capped at 10 to 15 people instead of the current provincial limit of 50, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the city.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, spoke with CP24 Wednesday afternoon and once again reiterated the need to reduce gathering limits, which she commented on earlier in the day at her regular city hall briefing.
“We want to be able to see something lower than that and you know there is no magic number here, right, I think we have to look at the situations all around the world,” de Villa told CP24.
“And what's interesting is that there isn't a single number that anybody has landed on… But I can tell you from a public health point of view it's, you know, in the low sort of 10 to 15 is what we're looking at in indoor settings,” she added.
At Wednesday’s city briefing, de Villa also noted the need to increase enforcement on existing restrictions and to expand the mandatory mask requirements.
Toronto reported 77 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, 73 on Tuesday and 112 on Monday.
De Villa also answered your questions about testing, back-to-school concerns and other COVID-19 issues.
CP24: Premier Ford announcing today that self-testing will be done at pharmacies around the province. How is this safe for all the other customers who enter the pharmacy to shop or pick up their medications?
De villa: You know clearly one will have to think about what are the appropriate infection prevention and control measures that are being taken in those settings. So, certainly I would be interested in understanding how that will be accounted for. But you know, knowing what I know about our partners who engage in these kinds of testing facilities, they're very careful. They're not interested in either, you know, seeing infection disseminate to others or frankly to themselves. So I would trust that infection prevention and control measures would be put into place to minimize that risk.
CP24: On behalf of grandparents, even if our children and grandchildren are in our bubble, when they go to work at school, can we still see them? If we distance and wear a mask will we be protected enough? Will we not be able to see them or have Thanksgiving or even Christmas dinner?
De Villa: Here's what it boils down to, right, what we're actually asking people to do is to really think very carefully about the choices that they're making. The people you live with, like the people in your home, clearly, you're going to interact, that's just a given. The issue is that there may be others who you don't live with who are deemed essential support, these may be the caregivers etcetera those kinds of support that are essential to your life. Outside of those individuals, the strong recommendation is at this time to limit your contact, right, with others who are not people you live with or those who are essential supports in order for you to manage your life circumstances.
CP24: Is there reason to be concerned that some education workers, like supply teachers, social workers and music teachers, must move from school to school?
De Villa: I think that when we look at the circumstances within the schools, it will all come down to the specific behaviors and the amount of contact, whether we're talking about teachers or any other member of a workforce or a member of the public. What is the nature of the contact that you're having with people? Are you able to maintain distance, and are you able to use masks? So to the extent that you were able to put those self protection and I would say community protection measures into place that can absolutely reduce the risk.
CP24: Since there's so much talk these days about added limitations on gatherings, have you considered imposing a curfew to cap public gatherings?
De Villa: Right now, what we would like to do is really examine what can be done in terms of limiting the likelihood of people gathering in larger amounts, so as to reduce the spread. And I think there's good rationale for this. Not only based on what other country’s experiences have been, but in fact, our own experience has been that way. You'll recall that through the implementation of measures which included, reducing gathering sizes and limiting the number of people that could gather together whether it's indoors or outdoors, we actually did affect a reduction in case counts and COVID-19 here in our own city.
CP24: I am a director of a curling club and I want to know about league play. If we have 32 players get together on a Monday morning and some of them mix within another group of 32 a couple of days later, our policy would be mandatory masks. And most of our players are seniors.
De Villa: So under the current provisions, there are allowances for this kind of activity. Recreation-type gym facilities are able to be opened with certain provisions and of course, you're going to want to maintain physical distance as much as possible, mask use as much as possible, in order to reduce the risk, that's under the current state. We need to continue to work together as a community to try to minimize COVID-19 spread. If circumstances change the regulations and what's allowed may in fact change. The province you've already heard is interested in looking at that. So I think, you know, for now, it looks like that should be okay, what happens in the future will depend actually on all of us.
CP24: Do you think the increase in cases may also be due to crowded buses on the TTC? Which extra measures should the TTC take in order to reduce crowding on buses and subways?
De Villa: So, certainly I would raise that to my colleagues at the TTC. There's lots that I'm sure that they're able to do to try to minimize crowding, things like putting more buses on routes. But I'll say this. We’ve got masks available on the TTC, where possible keep the distance and on the bus, where possible as well, open the windows. This is what we can do to reduce risk as much as possible.
CP24: When you get a covid result is it just a positive or negative? Is there a result that says only asymptomatic? Wouldn't asymptomatic mean you're positive and can spread?
De Villa: When you get a covid test, ideally it tells you whether you're either positive, that you have evidence of COVID-19 virus being present, or not. So that's positive or negative. There are some circumstances where the test is a little fuzzy with respect to the results that's called indeterminate. So those are basically the ranges of the test results. When it comes to asymptomatic, when we talk about being asymptomatic, we're saying that you don't actually have any symptoms. Sometimes you don't have any symptoms because you don't have the infection. Other times you do have the infection, but for whatever reason you're not noticing any symptoms of infection, whether it's runny nose headache, fatigue, any change from what you see as normal.
CP24: I see people in stores not wearing masks, why aren't stores accountable for allowing that?
De Villa: I think that it's on all of us to try to ensure that people are wearing their masks where they should be. And stores, I have seen, will encourage people to appropriately wear their masks. I would keep in mind though, there are some people for whom mask wearing is not possible. And that may be the circumstance in some of those cases.