Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, once again called on the provincial government to implement paid sick days and make essential workplaces safer to stop the spread of COVID-19.
De Villa’s comments come after Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions on Friday that were widely criticized for doing little to actually combat virus spread. Ford ordered outdoor recreation amenities closed and banned outdoor gatherings with anyone outside one’s household.
Ford also said playgrounds would be closed and that police could stop people on the street to ask them why they’re out, but those measures were later rolled back.
At a news conference Monday, de Villa said she’d like to see the province give workers paid sick days, even on a temporary emergency basis, so employees wouldn’t feel pressure to show up when they’re sick and potentially spread the virus.
She also made it clear she wants the province to do more to make sure essential workplaces are following public health measures.
“The science supports this,” de Villa said. “Spread of this virus is not solved locally.
I am amongst many peers who see the circumstances demanding a province-wide strategy.”
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More broadly, de Villa said Toronto also needs more vaccine supply for people to “double down” on public health measures and target communities of people more at risk of getting infected.
She has been calling for the province to implement paid sick leave for several months now, asking in January for the province to give workers five days of paid sick leave annually and increase that to 10 days during the pandemic.
Opposition leader Andrea Horwath of the Ontario NDP also asked Ford’s Conservative government again on Monday to pass a bill that would implement paid sick leave, but the idea was shot down.
Ontario is in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen more cases than ever. The province broke its daily case record three times last week and reported nearly 4,500 new infections on Monday alone.
“I know that the case numbers right now are scary. They’re like none other that we’ve seen through this whole pandemic,” Mayor John Tory said.
At the same time, Ontario is racing to get people vaccinated. Toronto is running pop-up clinics to immunize everyone 18 and older in hotspot neighbourhoods, and Tory said one such pop-up administered about 3,000 doses at a set of basketball courts in the city’s northwest end over the weekend.