Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday November 12, 2020
Doug Ford downloads hardest pandemic decision-making
Being a medical officer of health in an Ontario town or city has always been a big, challenging job. Being the MOH during a pandemic like this one is exponentially harder. Add in being the default decision-maker about what businesses can stay open and which must close, and you’ve got a job not for the faint of heart.
That is where Ontario’s medical officers find themselves today, with the provincial government apparently opting for a minimalist approach on pandemic policy at the very time when COVID-19 is spreading dramatically. At this rate, it will soon be out of control. It may already be.
On Wednesday, for the fourth time in five days, Ontario set a record reporting 1,426 new cases. The seven-day average stands at 1,217, the highest it has been since the pandemic began. Another unfortunate record: There are 10,361 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. And 92 long-term-care facilities are dealing with outbreaks, with that number expected to grow. Hospitalization rates remain relatively low, but if the current growth rate continues that is likely to change.
All this, even as Ontario labs processed 36,700 test samples, reporting a test positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. Health experts say a positivity rate of 3.0 indicates spread is at the tipping point toward exponential growth.
Why the provincial government chose this time to toss out the old pandemic control regime and adopt one that raises the bar on when provincially mandated control measures will be implemented is anyone’s guess. But from all appearances, the Ford government is putting keeping businesses open at the top of its priority list, even when doing so is not in the best interest of pandemic control.
When questioned about all this, Premier Doug Ford was quick point out that local public health authorities always have the option of imposing measures over and above the provincial guidelines.
That stance puts municipal governments and their public health officers between a rock and a hard place. If you don’t believe that, ask local political and health officials in Peel Region and in Toronto. Both have implemented local lockdown measures because provincial measures were deemed insufficient under current circumstances.
Indoor dining and gyms, for example, are locked down for 28 days in both those jurisdictions. But now, instead of suffering businesspeople being angry with the province, they’re angry with local health officials and their municipal partners.
In a way, this could be referred to as a new kind of provincial downloading. And like other forms of downloading, they serve the provincial government with little regard for the impact on municipalities and local health officials.
There is something to be said for the targeted approach to pandemic control. It is better overall than a one-size-fits all provincial solution, though it’s not perfect. But it does allow the provincial government to deflect responsibility for harsher lockdown measures.
Ontario is not in a good place in terms of controlling the spread of COVID-19. And that’s the cruelest paradox of all. Too many of us are sick and tired of pandemic restrictions on personal freedoms and commerce, so we slack off here and there, and the virus is ready and waiting for the opportunity. Now we are in the thick of the second wave, which is in many ways worse than the first. If we remain on the current trajectory, the most likely outcome is another hard lockdown like we experienced early in the pandemic. The Ford government won’t be able to dodge that bullet, and neither will the rest of us. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)