TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is defending his decision not to shut down restaurants and bars despite mounting calls from hospitals and local health officials to do so to slow the second wave of COVID-19.
“I want to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin someone’s life,” the premier said at his daily press briefing Monday.
He said “thousands of small mom and pop shops” could be destroyed if he orders them to close.
“That weighs on you,” he said.
“I can’t make a willy nilly decision … and ruin thousands and thousands of people’s livelihoods.”
The province reported 615 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, including one new outbreak in long-term care and 56 new cases in schools. Two hundred and eighty-nine of the new cases are in Toronto, while 88 are in Peel Region and 81 are in Ottawa, Health Minister Christine Elliott reported.
Toronto’s top doctor Dr. Eileen de Villa said Friday that the province should ban indoor service at bars and restaurants for four weeks. Forty-four per cent of the city’s 106 active outbreaks that day were in these types of venues.
She reiterated that call Monday and said Torontonians need to change their behaviour.
“COVID-19 is spreading in a serious way. The choices we make will determine whether the spread of COVID-19 is going to get worse or going to get better. On that basis I’m very seriously asking again that everyone rethink their Thanksgiving plans.”
Celebrate only with people in your household, Dr. de Villa said, and if you live alone join a dinner virtually.
“I would far rather we change one Thanksgiving for safety’s sake than look back at Thanksgiving 2020 with enormous regret.”
Last week, the Ontario Hospital Association said it supports Dr. de Villa’s call for indoor dining to be prohibited.
“Without public health measures in place, Toronto and its surrounding areas will soon see a further acceleration of infections and higher numbers of hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units (ICUs), and more deaths,” the association’s president and CEO Anthony Dale said.
Three days earlier, he said Ontario should move some regions back to Stage 2 of reopening. Otherwise, he said, the government could jeopardize the health-care system’s ability to run COVID-19 assessment centres, help out at long-term care homes and deliver “life-saving care.”
Ottawa’s medical officer of health also said that the strain on the system is untenable and pleaded with residents to cancel social plans.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the premier needs to heed these warnings.
“Doug Ford has put us on the brink of another health and economic disaster by failing to take action months ago,” she said in a statement. “Stronger public health measures, and a big boost for public health, could still impact how many people get sick, it could still save lives, and it will have a direct impact on how long and difficult this second wave is for all Ontarians.”
The premier said Monday that he needed to see “hard core data” supporting another shutdown before he’d go through with it.
“The easy thing to do, is without seeing endless data, is just close everything down. Well, I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to do that to people’s lives right now,” he said.
Ford ordered all non-essential businesses to close in March after Ontario reported 78 new cases of COVID-19 in one day. At the time, there were 503 total cases in the province.
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“This is not the time for half measures,” he said.
By the end of July, bars and restaurants were allowed to resume indoor service.
The Ontario government did implement some new measures Friday.
It put a “pause” on the concept of social circles, recommending that people only have close contact with people in their household. It also lowered the number of people that could be in restaurants, bars, gyms and banquet halls at one time.
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