Toronto's top doctor wants to ban indoor dining, fitness classes

Oct 2 2020, 6:45 pm

Toronto’s top doctor wants to ban indoor dining and fitness classes, and have people only leave their home for essential trips in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, Dr. Eileen de Villa sent a letter to Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, outlining recommendations to take further action in Toronto, which has seen the seven-day moving average have a six-fold increase in cases in one month.

“If I cannot take actions within my authority, as is the situation in this case, it is my duty to notify the appropriate parties of the risk to Toronto residents,” the letter reads.

“Given the evidence I have reviewed, I am concerned if we do not act quickly to enhance public health measures, we will not adequately mitigate the immediate health risks to the public.”

Due to the transmission in restaurants and bars, de Villa is recommending that individuals no longer dine indoors. While Toronto Public Health has explored alternative measures like requiring individuals to dine in restaurants with only members of their household or restricting indoor dining in areas of the City where case counts are high, it would be difficult to enforce.

The medical officer of health also recommends that individuals only leave their homes for essential activities, such as work, education, fitness, healthcare appointments, and to purchase food, with “flexibility for up to two individuals from outside their household to provide social support if an individual lives alone.”

“Given Toronto’s data concerning exposures, clusters, and outbreaks in fitness clubs, I strongly recommend that all indoor group classes in gyms be discontinued,” de Villa says.

And because recreation and sports teams that play indoors face a similar exposure risk, indoor activities for recreation and sports teams should be discontinued.

When it comes to large venues, de Villa said that “concerning exposures and outbreaks” have occurred and recommends that they be required to submit how they will properly comply with public health measures to Toronto Public Health for approval.

In her letter, de Villa says there are around 169 active outbreaks, and in the last three weeks long-term care outbreaks increased from two to nine.

Between September 20 and 26, there were 45 active community outbreaks. Of these outbreaks, about 44% were in restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.

De Villa adds that socializing in bars and restaurants is contributing to significant exposures and outbreaks like in Yonge Street Warehouse, which created 1,700 exposures.

And in schools, there are 103 with active cases, with 68 in the last week.

“To allow for safe reopening, such as opening schools, it is recommended that communities keep new case counts to no more than 1 case per 100,000 population/day. For Toronto, this would be approximately 30 cases/day. Currently, Toronto’s seven day moving average for new cases is eight cases per 100,000 population/day,” the letter reads.

For a comparison, de Villa says that the state of Victoria in Australia implemented strict public health measures when daily case counts were lower than those reported in Toronto, and it improved the situation of their second wave.

“I am requesting that you, as the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, use your legislative powers under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) and the Provincial Emergency Order to enact these changes,” de Villa says.

“Or consider making the necessary legislative and/or regulatory changes to provide me as the Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto with the authority to take these actions.”

Earlier on Friday, Ontario implemented new measures for gyms, restaurants, and bars in Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa.

In total there have been 19,837 cases, with 16,509 recovered, and 1,182 reported deaths.

Clarrie FeinsteinClarrie Feinstein

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