Out of Toronto and Peel lockdown in 28 days? Ontario's chief doctor would be surprised

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Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Monday he would be surprised if there would be enough of a change in COVID-19 trends by end of the new 28-day lockdown for Toronto and Peel to move into a restricted stage. 

"Would we be pleased and surprised of that? We would be," he said. "Everybody is going to have to do a lot of really ramping up the personal behaviour and the household contacts."

While Williams and his colleagues on the health table are reviewing health data for the regions every week during the next 28 days, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe pointed out earlier in the day that the lockdown period is fixed. 

Monday was Day 1 of the 28-day GREY lockdown for the two regions, which includes no indoor/outdoor dining, limiting retail to curbside pickup and delivery with exceptions for certain stores, closing personal care services and no indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household. 

Williams comments were a stark contrast from just a week ago. 

"If we all do what we're supposed to do, I would like to think everybody would be in green especially before the time of Christmas," he said on November 16th. 

Yaffe said when it comes factors that would move them into the restricted red zone, major ones include cases per 100,000 people - RED requires 40 per 100,000, whereas in Peel it's almost twice that - as well as percentage positivity for lab results, contact tracing and health system capacity. 

Earlier in the fall, Ottawa was struggling with its trends similarly to Toronto and Peel, but then saw major improvements, now putting it in the YELLOW zone. 

However, it took longer than four weeks to see those improvements and the timeline of holidays will make it even more difficult Williams said to consider moving out of lockdown. 

"It would be risky to lift it at that time, so we're going to have to be very careful if we're going to consider anything in three or four weeks," he said, adding he expects new announcements about the holidays to come soon. 

"How should we ask ourselves to adapt to a COVID-Hannukah, COVID-Christmas, COVID-New Year?" he said. "If we go off the rails...and go into a lot of contacts, breaking down all the social distancing in that, we could see quite a big upswing of our numbers into the new year." 

WILLIAMS CONTRACT MOTION 

The PCs Monday also tabled a motion Monday to extend Williams' contract - set to expire in February - to September. 

Premier Doug Ford as he's done before during the pandemic defended Williams and his performance.. 

"I just do not ever believe in changing a dance partner in the middle of a dance, especially when he's an incredible dancer," he said. "He's a great doctor." 

But the government did not get the unanimous consent from the opposition parties it was looking for, which means there will be debate on the motion tomorrow, with the premier's office expecting a vote the next day. 

With the PC majority, the motion is expected to pass. 

BUSINESS REACTION 

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business meanwhile made its latest demand of the government to save businesses, calling for a "Small Business First" retail strategy. 

In an effort for businesses to compete with stores like Costco and Wal-Mart, the CFIB says it should allow smaller retailers to have limited indoor capacity for customers and front-facing staff and encouraging pre-booking appointments. 

The CFIB is also calling on the government to "make the data behind this decision public to demonstrate that shopping and other business activities are the source of rising COVID-19 numbers." 

When asked about the demand and if it should be shared, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria deferred to the advice of the health table. 

"When we make decisions, we rely on our public health officials and we'll continue to work with them," he said. "There's really no playbook for something like this, but we really need to take the measures now to support the health side of it." 

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