Tory says keeping modified Stage 2 restrictions in Toronto for an additional week is 'right thing to do'
Paramedics stand by their ambulances at Toronto Western Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday October 27, 2020. The hospital has declared a COVID-19 outbreak and has closed some wards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Published Wednesday, November 4, 2020 7:42AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 4, 2020 2:43PM EST
Mayor John Tory says that keeping Toronto in a modified version of Stage 2 for one extra week is the “right thing to do” in the face of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city.
On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford announced that laws requiring the suspension of indoor dining service at bars and restaurants as well as the outright closure of gyms, cinemas and casinos would be lifted in Peel, York and Ottawa at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and replaced with a new series of restrictions requiring earlier closing times, stricter capacity limits and mandatory symptom screenings.
Ford, however, said that the measures would remain in place until Nov. 14 in Toronto after Tory “asked for a little more time.”
“I don’t apologize for the fact that I accept the advice of our medical officer of health and numerous other medical experts with respect to a little more extra time being taken to make sure Toronto gets this right,” Tory said in an interview with CP24 on Wednesday morning. “Nobody is going to thank me or anybody else if the businesses reopen and then have to close again in two weeks.”
The new colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions rolled out by the Ford government on Tuesday would permit most businesses to reopen, even in areas with higher rates of infection.
The plan does include a “red level” that would more closely resemble the modified version of Stage 2 but sets an extremely high bar for moving regions into that category – a positivity rate of more than 10 per cent or a weekly incident rate of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people.
To put those numbers in context, Toronto’s weekly incidence rate per 100,000 people through Nov. 2 was 78.6 and its positivity rate was 4.6 per cent.
Speaking with CP24, Tory said that he believes the framework is a “positive development” that will ultimately provide more “transparency” around the decisions that are taken to impose additional restrictions in certain regions.
But he said that he does worry about what message the province would be sending by loosening restrictions now, one day after the city reported a record 427 new cases of COVID-19.
“It is not just about opening up a particular business, it encourages a greater level of activity in the city and people being close to one another being in more social settings and that can enhance the spread of the virus, which we don’t want at a time that we have more than 400 cases,” he said. “So I am really sorry that we are going to take an extra week. I really am, I know the pain that these businesses are going through but I think it would be way worse if we opened up at what the medical officer of health believes would be too quickly and then had to close again in two weeks.”
Ford has spoken out about the need to ease restrictions in some areas since “we don't know how long this virus will be with us.”
Toronto Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that the city will also need some time to fully resume tracing the contacts of each confirmed case, something it stopped doing last month to prioritize contacts tied to outbreaks in high-risk settings such as schools or hospitals.
That said some epidemiologists public health experts have taken issue with doing so while case counts are still so high.
“If you actually look at those measures, I think there is probably some room to recalibrate,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Issac Bogoch told CP24 on Wednesday morning. “You really will allow for a lot of community transmission before any action is taken. I think if we just take an honest look at this, this won't help our numbers. It has the potential to have our numbers go higher, which has the potential to lead to more hospitalizations."
Last week, the province released new modelling that suggested that Ontario may have avoided the “worst case scenario” when it comes to the second wave of the pandemic but will still see extremely high daily case counts of 800 to 1,200 new infections per day throughout most of November.