York's top doctor hopeful region can avoid lockdown, even as some indicators suggest it could be imminent
Published Thursday, December 3, 2020 4:23PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 3, 2020 4:37PM EST
The top public health official in York Region says that he does not believe further restrictions are necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 in his community, even though some indicators now point to the region being in worse shape than Toronto was when it was placed under a lockdown last month.
York Region has seen an average of 111 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last week, which is actually higher than Toronto’s weekly incidence rate when it was placed under a lockdown on Nov. 23 (97.9).
The numbers would appear to suggest that York could join Toronto and Peel in a lockdown when Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet meets tomorrow to consider the latest recommendations from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
But York’s Medical Officer of Health Karim Kurji says that he does not believe York needs to be placed in the most restrictive tier.
In an interview with CP24 on Thursday afternoon, he said that the additional restrictions that would accompany a formal lockdown designation, such as the outright closure of bars, restaurants, gyms and personal care services, may not have much effect in York.
He also said that the region continues to have good public health capacity with officials able to contact 90 per cent of new cases within 24 hours.
“We have just done some modelling and that modelling shows that the gain from going into lockdown would be minimal so we are hoping that coupled with mobility data, which shows 20 per cent reduction in mobility since we went to the red zone, will hopefully convince the province to keep us still in the red zone,” he told CP24.
Kurji said that York Region is already in a “red zone plus” of sorts with additional restrictions requiring businesses such as meeting and event spaces, malls, and retail stores to set capacity limits and ensure physical distancing is strictly observed.
He said that while he will ultimately “adhere to the province” when it comes to whether York should be placed under a lockdown, his personal belief is that such a move would not be necessary at this time.
“Yes we do have some areas within York Region with higher rates of positivity and we are addressing those both in terms of having more school testing being done and some community intervention strategies that we are just discussing with the ministry. We also have additional testing in areas like Vaughan,” he said.
The province has not yet tipped its hat about what changes, if any, could be made to the tiers that regions are currently placed under, but during a briefing on Thursday, Williams said that officials generally review the data and speak with each medical officer of health to get a better before making any decisions.
Speaking with CP24 during a subsequent interview, Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua said that York continues to have capacity in its hospitals, which is giving officials like Kurji “confidence that we can stay in the red zone area.”
Bevilacqua, however, conceded that if the situation were to deteriorate further in Toronto and Peel it may force the province’s hand.
“Our public health capacity may actually be affected if in fact the public health capacity of the City of Toronto and Peel is adversely impacted which means that people from Peel and Toronto may have to access our hospitals and healthcare system,” he said. “That is something that is not part and parcel of the decision but that is the reason we make our recommendations to the provincial table which have all the other statistics, facts and figures of the surrounding areas.”
Once a region is moved into a new tier in the framework they are generally kept there for a minimum of 28 days.