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Polite language but rift growing between Toronto and Ontario regarding COVID response

Polite language but rift growing between Toronto and Ontario regarding COVID response

Toronto, beset by a huge surge in new COVID cases wants the province to give it the tools it says it needs to stem the pandemic. Toronto’s top doctor called for “immediate action” by the province to stop the spread of COVID-19, including asking that people only leave home for essential trips, but the measures announced by Ontario officials Friday fell far short of those recommendations. The recommendations come as the city faces the risk of “exponential growth” of novel coronavirus infections, the city said in a news release Friday.

At his news conference today, Dr. David Williams, the province’s top doctor acknowledged that Toronto wanted him to go further than the measures he announced that will reduce social gatherings.

“We have seen in other places what happens when COVID-19 gains the upper hand.  Without quick action to implement further public health measures, there is an acute risk the virus will continue to spread widely, causing serious illness, stressing the health care system and further straining Toronto’s economy,” Toronto Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said in the release.

The recommendations include calling on the public to leave their homes only for essential trips including work, education, healthcare appointments and exercise, with up to two people from outside a household allowed to provide social support for those living alone.

De Villa said her push for the province to undertake her temporary recommendations is to “drive overall case counts down.” She insisted that she wants these tough measures in place for a 28 day period which would be two 14-day cycles uses in COVID evaluation.

“These number won’t reverse on their own,” she said. “They will only increase without action. This is the threat we face and this is why I am asking the province for support to do more.”

De Villa’s recommendations also include prohibiting indoor dining and indoor sports and recreation, and requiring large venues to submit plans showing how they will comply with public health measures, such as through physically distanced seating and methods to collect information from patrons.

“Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has limited authority under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) to act alone with such broad restrictions as recommended here,” the city said in the release.

“As such, Dr. de Villa has requested that Dr. Williams, as Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, use his legislative powers under the HPPA and the Provincial Emergency Order to enact these changes or consider making the necessary legislative and/or regulatory changes to provide her with the authority to take these actions as quickly as possible.”

Premier Ford praised Dr Williams yesterday for trying to strike a balance between combatting the pandemic and keeping as much of the economy open as possible. De Villa said today that her measures are needed to prevent a wholesale shutdown.

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