'Underground activity' concerns York Region doctor with Ontario's cautious reopening plans

York Region's top doctor says he'd like to see the Ford government move on to step one of its reopening plans sooner than later with hours to go until the provincial stay-at-home order expires.

"However, I suspect that will not necessarily occur," says Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region medical officer of health.

"Unfortunately, we will probably see several days whereby we'll get people questioning what's happening given that the numbers are so low."

As of Tuesday, York Region's health unit logged 74 daily cases and just under 500 total active infections. Nearly 98 per cent of its total confirmed cases (52,038) are now considered recovered or resolved.

The province isn't expected to enter its reopening plan until at least the week of June 14, and that's worrying Dr. Kurji.

He believes between now and then, it could open the doors for potential "underground activity," with the region already seeing restaurants opening covertly and personal services operating in residential settings.

"Unfortunately, whenever you have these underground economy booming, what we would have is presumably not the same level of protected practices, and therefore we could potentially have additional cases arising," he says.

At the same time, the health unit is reporting nearly 73 per cent of adults have rolled up their sleeves, receiving at least their first dose of vaccine, but Dr. Kurji says his concerns lie with the other 27 per cent still not vaccinated.

"We are currently experiencing 14 workplace outbreaks," says Kurji, adding two-thirds of those workers aren't residents of York Region.

"We are working on different strategies to ensure that workers everywhere have access to vaccines and to ensure they are adequately protected."

As of May 21, the health unit expanded the vaccination eligibility to all children 12 years and up, and, in just over one week, it's already seen nearly 39 per cent get their first shots.

"There has been tremendous uptake in that particular group. We don't think that we will have any problem in terms of delivering the second doses to all sectors of the population very quickly."

Dr. Kurji says he's optimistic about where the region is at this point of the pandemic and has reasons to feel that we are nearing the end, but he warns it's still not time to be complacent.

"We are a country with a lot of international travel, and so we'll need to be constantly vigilant, "he says.