The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) is calling on the provincial government to implement a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with a COVID-19 infection rate of 40 cases per 100,000 population or higher.
“This expanded lockdown would provide a valuable opportunity for the Government of Ontario to reset and recalibrate the components of its response to ensure that we are able to gradually re-open safely,” the statement reads. “This includes a focus on high-risk workplaces and enhancements to the testing and contact tracing system, so that we do not slide backwards again after re-opening.”
“We must do everything possible to ensure that schools are the last organizations to close.”
For the public health units that do not meet that particular threshold in COVID-19 cases, the OHA said the Ontario government needs to give priority to the reproduction rate and test positivity, in addition to the infection rate, when assessing whether stricter public health measures are needed.
The hospital association is also recommending that the framework for Grey-Lockdown restrictions be “rapidly re-evaluated by independent public health and epidemiological experts to determine if additional, stricter provisions are necessary.”
“The situation is extremely serious,” the statement reads. “We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario's hospitals.”
“Every health care system has its breaking point.”
The OHA stressed that there needs to be a focus on curbing the spread of COVID-19 as hospitalizations grapple with outbreaks and work to catch up on approximately 150,000 scheduled surgeries cancelled in the first wave of the pandemic.
“Ontario remains firmly caught in the grasp of a major second wave of COVID-19,” the statement reads. “Ontario's health care professionals are being asked to carry a very heavy burden.”
“The average length of stay of COVID-19 patients has decreased, but hospitals are seeing more of them, which is accelerating demands on health care workers. They are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, but because of their calling, they carry on.”
When asked about this request from the hospital association, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, said she is “very concerned” about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases across the province, particularly in the “hot zones,” and the impact on hospital capacity.
“We are working with the hospital association, we are very aware of their concerns,” Elliott said. “We are looking at considerations, what’s been working, what hasn’t been working, because we want to make sure that we put in the most effective measures possible.”
She added that nothing is “off the table” in terms of additional restrictions or rules that could be implemented.
This statement comes as Ontario reported 2,432 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 737 new cases in Toronto, 434 in Peel, 209 in York Region, 190 in Windsor-Essex County and 142 in Hamilton.