Beginning on January 14, Ontario descended into lockdown and a state of emergency, with stay-at-home measures reminiscent of early months during the pandemic. The tightened measures arrive as an attempt to stave off cases surging across the country, placing the healthcare system in jeopardy. As restrictions lock in place, morale and cooperation have become public health concerns.
“Staying at home as much as possible for the next 28 days is absolutely necessary,” stated Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa. “It’s critical to create greater barriers between ourselves and the virus and to protect the health care system, which we all know now is under great pressure. Distance is the single most important barrier.”
The current restrictions require Ontarians to stay at home except for essential activities, such as essential work, grocery shopping, and medical appointments. Mask-wearing requirements remain the same indoors, but the province has also recommended wearing a mask outdoors when in the proximity of others.
The need for the January 14 lockdown was made even more clear this past weekend, as Canada officially crossed the staggering threshold of 700,000 cases on Saturday. On January 16, Ontario also reported 3,056 new cases and 51 new deaths.
“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs (intensive care units) will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” stated Premier Ford. “That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order.”
The province released a set of predictions for January and February that show accelerated growth in COVID-19 cases, painting a grim picture for the healthcare system. A major concern at this time is the status of ICU beds.
“ICU occupancy by COVID-19 patients is now over 400 beds and is projected to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February, which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario’s hospitals,” stated a provincial government news release.
De Villa urged Canadians to remain cooperative with lockdown measures despite the demoralizing nature of stay-at-home orders.
“Morale is enormously important right now. Our ability to believe that there are better days ahead will likely be severely tested in the next month, and maybe even longer,” she said. “If the projections from the Province manifest in the worst case, we should prepare for what that will mean here in Toronto, as we are the country’s largest city, home to high density and some neighbourhoods at the highest risk.”
She reminds Ontarians that despite the many uncertainties of the rising case count, the actions that can save lives are “powerful, familiar, and simple”. Wearing masks, washing hands, keeping distance, and staying home are all the steps needed to keep the tide in check.
“Most of all, remember that better days will come.”