May 24 to 30, 2020
This week in Ontario we glimpsed the first semblance of a plan for how the government will proceed with the re-opening of the province.
Previously, Premier Doug Ford had stuck to the mantra that the province will only open on a province-wide basis, with no regional variations, based on expert medical advice. This week, the province’s 34 regional public health directors published the scientific criteria that they would use to determine how ready their public health district is to proceed with re-opening of services, and implement further restrictions if necessary. The premier is now considering the option of regional opening procedures.
At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the province was investing all of its time and resources into reinforcing hospitals as our front line of defence. It then got side-tracked into dealing with a health crisis at many long-term care homes. All of the fortifications were built at the front door of our health system, while the back door was left open. About 25% of all Ontario COVID-19 infections to date have occurred among residents and staff in long-term care homes, while over 60% of all deaths have been nursing home residents.
The crisis at our care homes culminated this week with the publication of a report by the Canadian Armed Forces who were requested to assist by providing care at five homes in Ontario. This has all been very tragic news, highlighting some of the deplorable conditions in the homes which have resulted in much grief and sorrow. The novel coronavirus, however, has moved on, in search of other vulnerable populations. But where are they?
This week, the City of Toronto published a map to illustrate where some of these hotspots are. In response, the province has now announced new testing protocols. Mobile assessment teams will operate pop-up testing services which will be targeted at identified hotspots, and anyone who believes they have been infected can now be tested (some were turned away before).
Also this week, the province seems to have ramped up its COVID-19 testing procedures, approaching a current capacity of about 20,000 daily tests, after two weeks of under-achieving. This capacity will need to be expanded further – along with more robust contact tracing – if the pop-up testing is to be successful.
Meanwhile, the key message still applies. Stay home, unless absolutely necessary to go to work, shop for groceries, get exercise, or to get tested!