Experts Worry Ontario’s New COVID-19 Guidelines Set The Requirements for Closures and Lockdown Too High

The new rules require positive rates above 10% before applying the red limit.

One day after the province released its new colour-coded COVID-19 guidelines, doctors and other public health experts are expressing concern that the threshold for tightening restrictions in the hardest-hit areas is set too high. 

In the new system, four public health units — Peel, York, Ottawa and Eastern Ontario — are set to be classified in the orange, or “restrict” category on November 7 after moving out of the modified Stage 2. The same will happen in Toronto a week later, on November 14.

Under the new orange category, businesses that are closed or restricted from operating under the revised Phase 2 rules will be relaxed. For example, gyms may reopen and bars and restaurants will be able to accommodate guests in the home with certain restrictions.

For them to shut down and let a public health unit switch to a red level, or “control”, the positive rate of the area (sometimes referred to as “percent positive “) would need over 9.9%. The province will also consider factors such as hospital and related tracing capacity.

Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Diseases Doctor at St. “Being 10% positive is really like you don’t know what’s going on in your community,” said Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.

“Everything went wild at that time.”

Both Chagla and Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, agree that the province has set certain criteria for transferring medical units to different levels of restriction.

“It’s good that they can come up with clear metrics, and it will bring much-needed transparency for businesses and the community,” Bogoch said.

But other little details disturbed him. Dr. Isaac Bogoch argues that a 10% positive rate in a place like Toronto – where it most recently hovered below 4% – would be “very problematic”.

“You hope you can act far before that,” he added, adding that the sober hope is flexible in adjusting the numbers.

Epidemiologist Colin Furness said more frankly, arguing that the new guidelines, and in particular the move to continue to reopen provincial hotspots, is a false step and will inevitably lead to the case.

“The premier really wants the businesses to run again and he wants things to get really bad before they have to close again,” he said.

Dr. Michael Warner, chief healthcare officer at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, also sees a difficult future ahead, saying that these guidelines “drive exponential disease growth in hot regions. “

He also worries that the final decision on whether a unit will be transferred from one level to another will be with the government.

“It gives the Ford government the last trump card. They have complete control over the epidemic,” he said.

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