Toronto medical officer says city is not yet in a place to ease public health measures
TORONTO -- Toronto’s medical officer of health said Monday that the city is seeing some progress in its battle with COVID-19, but warned that the numbers do not yet indicate that we are at a stage where we can begin lifting public health restrictions.
“Our data is telling us that we are making positive progress in our city. It is also telling us that we continue to see new people becoming infected with this virus,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said at a press briefing Monday. “This means that we are unfortunately still not in place to ease our public health measures yet.”
There were 6,278 cases of COVID-19 in the city as of Sunday evening, Toronto Public Health reported Monday. Among them, 387 were in hospital, with 105 in intensive care units. A total of 449 Toronto residents had died from the virus as of Sunday evening.
De Villa said that while people may be seeing numbers that appear to show a drop in new daily confirmed cases, one or two days of apparent decline do not mean that the danger has passed.
“It is important note that in a pandemic, it is not the data from any one given day that make a difference in our understanding of what is happening, but the data patterns and trends we see occurring over time,” she said.
Still, she said there is reason to be encouraged.
Prior to the implementation of strict public health measures in mid-March, each case of COVID-19 in the city resulted in an average of 3.5 new infections to other people. Today, the rate of infection in the city has decreased to 1.
While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Toronto was doubling every four days in the early period of the pandemic, the number of new cases is doubling every seven days now, suggesting that the rate of infection is slowing due to physical distancing and self-isolation, de Villa said.
“However, while we believe our local curve is flattening, we are not yet seeing a steady decrease in the number of new cases or new hospitalizations each day,” de Villa said. “This means we have likely not completely passed the infection peak.
“As is the case with any outbreak, we will only know when we have reached this point after it has occurred and our local cases begin to decrease.”
De Villa said she understands that it might be difficult for people to continue practicing physical distancing as the weather gets better, especially as they see other cities or jurisdictions starting to open up again. However she stressed that no two places are exactly the same and each region needs to make its own decisions about when it is time to ease physical distancing measures or other restrictions.
“The reality is that COVID-19 does not impact all communities the same way. Each community must look at their own unique circumstances to inform their own approach for reopening their city safely,” she said.
“When our local COVID-19 infections begin to show a consistent decline, we can then start to ease our restrictions to get back to enjoying our city.”