York Region mayors say they tried to convince province to remain in red zone

Officials from York Region say that while they respect the province’s decision to place the area in a new restrictive lockdown on Monday, they had offered up alternatives in order to keep the region in the red “control” zone. 

They say that governments may need to take a different approach in order to curb cases while ensuring that small businesses aren’t being unfairly sidelined during the lockdown.

On Friday, Ontario announced that York Region, along with Windsor-Essex, is moving into lockdown on Monday at 12:01 a.m., in order to control the spread of COVID-19 cases. 

The decision comes three weeks after the province placed Toronto and Peel Region into the “grey” or lockdown-level zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. Those regions continue to see cases climb. 

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Friday that York and Windsor regions are moving in the “wrong direction” and that additional measures were needed.

The new lockdown for the regions means only essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies can remain open at 50 per cent capacity and restaurants are limited to take-out and drive-through only. You can read more about the restrictions here. 

Governments need more targeted approach: Vaughan mayor 

Ahead of the lockdown, Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua says that as a region, they presented an “excellent” case to the province as to why they should remain in the red zone.

Bevilacqua told CBC News that they provided modelling from the region’s medical officer that outbreak management was satisfactory enough to avoid a lockdown. However, he says the province has their own analysis and he respects their choice.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, we need to consolidate everything we learned from the first wave and the second wave. We need to get better at it,” he said, adding that most people follow and respect the rules at this point. 

“What is not helpful to the human psyche is the opening and closing and opening again. What people really want is certainty, and this certainty will come out when there’s a well thought out plan that people can see themselves in,” he said.

| Ontario announces two more regions will enter lockdown Monday: 

As Ontario sets a record for the most COVID-19 deaths on a single day in this second wage, people in two more health regions are now preparing to go into lockdown on Monday: Windsor-Essex and York Region. 2:42

He said he’d like a deeper analysis of their health care system so they can clearly understand what strains are being placed on it and why.

If periods of lockdown continue for York Region, he said businesses and individuals will need further help than what’s being provided right now, and there are mental health concerns. 

Further, comprehensive planning is needed in order to maintain public confidence in the government during this lockdown. 

Bevilacqua’s comments come as York Region reported another 185 cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

Hospitals overwhelmed in York Region: doctors

One York Region health professional, Dr. Steven Flindall wrote on Twitter that the emergency department he works at has been “chaotic”, there are intensive care patients arriving in “droves” and that the lockdown may be coming too late. 

Dr. Valérie Sales, an infectious disease specialist at Markham Stouffville Hospital also told CBC News that York Region has “very high” case counts and that hospitals are overwhelmed.

“Please also remember it’s not just the elderly who are getting hospitalized. We have a lot of people who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s and even those in their 20s,” she said. 

Dr. Karim Kurji, medical officer of health for York Region told CBC that while he has a lot of respect for the province’s leadership, he doesn’t think this lockdown will bring cases under control.

“I had hoped we would have been kept at the red zone with the additional restrictions because I feel we have reached the sweet point, between having a high degree of enforcement with controls and good outbreak management,” he said.

There’s concern about the “harmful effects” of mental health issues, social isolation and hurt to small businesses that comes with the new lockdown, he said. 

What would work better would be to remain in the red zone, while being “selective” with restrictions targeting problem areas, he said. 

Measures should focus on household spread: Markham mayor

Markham’s Mayor Frank Scarpitti also said that he’d offered alternatives to the province to avoid a lockdown.

He proposed that big box stores be limited to curbside pick-up only while allowing small businesses to remain open under restrictions in the red zone.

“It’s about aiming the measures in the right directions,” he said, adding that if most of the spread is coming from household contacts, small businesses shouldn’t be punished.

“When 50 per cent of your cases are coming from close contact, the last thing I want is for for York Region residents to get a false sense of hope that this lockdown is the answer,” he said, adding that curbing social gatherings is what really needs to be targeted now.

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