TORONTO - Remember the game “Simon Says”? It is a children’s game where the leader tells the participants what to do. In real life, it seems we are all participants in the game, only the dangerous element of Covid-19 is nothing to play with. In this analogy, the leaders are the public health and medical experts advising government officials who implement policy directing what we, the public, must do. The ultimate goal is to stay healthy and safe.
Whether the instructions are to wash your hands, wear a mask, stay home when possible and avoid socializing in large groups, all seem reasonable measures in mitigating the spread of the virus to avoid another full-scale lockdown.
In a public health emergency, the citizens rely on the medical experts and government to make decisions and implement policy in the best interest of all members of society. They want to trust in the decision-making process and expect full transparency. That trust can be tested when certain information released is confusing, or portions of it withheld.
An example of this occurred earlier this week when Toronto Public Health officials were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to participate in discussions at Ontario’s Covid-19 advisory table. Advocates for full disclosure and transparency argue, “why the secrecy?”, prompting calls on the Province to officially release all advice and recommendations by the advisory table.
This comes just days after the Province received blowback over lowering the threshold in the colour-coded Covid-19 framework. As a result, Hamilton, and the regions of York and Halton joined Peel Region and Toronto in the Red Control zone. There is no denying the rise in Covid-19 cases across the Province. Since the beginning of the month, Ontario has consistently reported well over one thousand new cases daily. On November 17, the seven-day average was 1,423; up 24% from the same period last week and 50% from the period just two weeks ago.
More concerning is the increase of infections among residents in the province’s long-term care (LTC) homes. In the month of October, there were 775 new resident cases and 104 deaths attributable to Covid-19. So far this month, an additional 894 new cases have been reported and 158 fatalities. Vulnerable seniors and the staff who care for them continue to face the perils of the virus among the 100 homes “in outbreak”.
Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO of Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) calls for better staffing models for all homes, while emphasizing that the province cannot afford to wait until December to release those staffing plans. Also, the RNAO is urgently asking for a complete 28-day lockdown in all RED zones, except for essential services and schools.
One thing is certain, nobody wants another full lockdown or a repeat of the tragedy that unfolded in LTC homes during the first wave. So, what does “Simon say” next?