Toronto's top doctor stands firm on restrictions; warns of future if infections rates don't lower

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While the city and province trade compliments on the desire to curb COVID-19 transmission in Canada's biggest city, they remain unresolved on implementing more restrictions at the request of Toronto's top medical official. 

It was last week that Dr. Eileen de Villa requested the province prohibit indoor dining, as well as indoor fitness classes and team sports for four weeks, while also suggesting people only leave home for essential reasons. 

Over 7 days in late September, 44 per cent of city outbreaks were linked to restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, but Doug Ford said Wednesday that's not enough for him given the relative size of those outbreaks compared to how many of the businesses there are. 

"We're going to target the bad actors," Ford said. "We just can't just shut down people's livelihoods with a broad brush." 

Dr. de Villa said while there's no update to the 44 per cent figure, she did provide a snapshot of what would happen if current infection levels aren't brought down. 

"I appreciate that sentiment," she said about struggling business owners, especially restaurants. "What I can say about what's happening here in Toronto is that we are seeing significant COVID-19 activity." 

Dr. de Villa says her team is looking at any way to bring the transmission down based on its overall risk factor.

Toronto Public Health currently has the virus' reproductive R number - that is how many people the average person will infect - at 1.2. 

Below 1 indicates a virus will eventually fade away, while 1 is stable and above it means the outbreak is growing. 

Ironically, despite the province not agreeing to the restrictions as of yet, its health table has pegged the number at 1.4. 

City models show if the rate were to increase to 1.25, there could be over 30,000 new infections over the next few months, with a peak between March and May. 

Down to 1.1 would mean only a quarter of those infections and if we made it below 1 by the end of October, the May numbers will be six times lower. 

"The earlier we intervene, the lesser the impact of COVID-19 on the health of the community and the shorter the duration of the control measures that are required." 

Dr. de Villa reiterated the need to cut down on indoor dining because of the risk of a lack of physical distancing and people removing masks to sit and eat, with Mayor John Tory saying these decisions are not taken lightly. 

"The discussion we have every single day out of the sight of the cameras and everybody else are agonizing discussions every day," he said. "You have to rely on our experts to make sure they can offer consolidated advice to us and that's what everyone has been working on the last few days." 

And though Ford maintained his need for more evidence, he still praised de Villa for her role. 

"She's a super, bright, very smart doctor and a hardworking person and she takes it so seriously and I understand, she feels like she has weight of the world on her shoulders, she's dealing with the largest city" he said. We are going to work with Dr. de Villa and her team and work through this."