Citing a “fierce urgency to act now,” Toronto’s public health chair is questioning the provincial government’s delay in announcing new COVID-19 lockdown measures.
“We are on a direct path towards an absolute brutal January,” Coun. Joe Cressy told the Star on Friday, with accelerating virus spread and potential health-care system collapse.
Cressy’s comments came after Premier Doug Ford confirmed lockdowns will continue after Monday in Toronto and Peel but he won’t reveal any additional restrictions, or if he’ll make the regionwide, until Monday.
With rising case counts, people already mingling due to “COVID fatigue” and holidays looming “there is a fierce urgency now … for a regional lockdown,” and every day counts, said the Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York councillor.
Ford had been expected to respond to calls from Mayor John Tory, medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa and other regional officials calling for severe restrictions across the GTA-Hamilton region when a 28-day Toronto-Peel lockdown order expires Monday.
Instead, Ford announced that starting Monday Hamilton moves into lockdown, Durham and Halton regions remain in the red zone for now, and Brant and Niagara move into the red zone.
The premier said will reveal any new measures for the rest of the GTA on Monday, after an emergency meeting of his cabinet, adding: “The trends we’re seeing throughout Ontario are very, very concerning.”
Cressy said: “We know that to beat this virus you must act fast. Why wait until Monday when quick and decisive action is necessary today? The time is act is now.”
Toronto recorded 758 new COVID-19 infections Friday, with 28 new hospitalizations. The city’s seven-day average for new infections was 583, compared to 471 a month earlier.
The youngest new COVID-19 patient is 28 years old. The youngest among 19 people to die from the virus since the previous day was 58 years old.
Toronto Public Health’s online dashboard showing the city’s COVID-19 indictors on Friday moved health system capacity from green, or good, to warning yellow.
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Intensive care and/or ventilator and/or acute care beds, for the first time in the pandemic, is showing sustained decreases in availability. Virus spread and containment, lab testing and public health system capacity are all red, with indicators continually trending away from established goals.
Tory said he supports Ford’s decision to keep Toronto in lockdown, but tighter restrictions are needed across the region to stop COVID-19 spread and “do everything possible to avoid overwhelming our health-care system and our front-line health-care workers in the new year.
“Taking additional action is the right thing to do,” the mayor said in a statement, adding it’s “absolutely clear” further regional restrictions are needed to “save lives and protect the health of all of our residents.”
The current lockdowns in Toronto and Peel shuttered gyms, halted indoor dining and restricted most non-essential stores to online sales and curbside pickup.
Earlier Friday, asked if he supports Quebec’s holiday-period lockdown measures, which include extending the school break, mandating that office workers stay home and preventing big box stores from selling non-essential goods, Tory said an emphatic yes to all of them.
“That’s the kind of thing that the premier, I know, has been discussing,” Tory told CP24.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie on Friday joined calls for tough regional restrictions.
Virus indicators for Peel are “beginning to plateau,” Crombie said in a statement, but the situation at local hospitals remains “dire, with elective surgeries being cancelled and patients being transferred to neighbouring regions,” to make room for COVID-19 patients.
Cellphone data is showing that people are moving from region to region more than they did in the first COVID-19 last spring, Crombie said, so the solution now must be region-wide.
“I am calling on the province to issue a GTHA-wide lockdown on Monday to drive down case numbers across the larger (Toronto-Hamilton) region and to protect our hospitals,” Crombie said.
With files from Rob Ferguson
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider
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