Tardy half measures to stop the surge 

di Priscilla Pajdo del November 30, 2020

TORONTO - The growth of Covid-19 cases across the province continues. Bad news. As of November 28th, the seven-day average increase was 1523, the highest since the start of the pandemic. The need to control the rate of contagion has become paramount. Hence, the strict lockdown measures implemented in “hotspot” areas like the City of Toronto and the Region of Peel.
In Toronto, the seven-day average is 451 new cases. The situation is even more concerning in the Region of Peel with its 7-day average of 460 new infections. The population of Peel is less than 40% of Toronto’s. Since the start of the pandemic, Peel has registered over 25,000 cases of the virus. The city of Brampton accounts for nearly twothirds (63%) of all cases in the region.
Both Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, and Brampton Mayor, Patrick Brown, expressed concern over the trajectory of cases. The city is home to a large proportion of essential workers. These include employees in health care services, transportation, food processing and multi-generational households. The latter group poses a greater challenge for family members needing to isolate, after testing positive for the virus.
On Thursday, the Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, announced $6.5 million in funding, spread over sixteen months, for Peel Public Health. The sum would allow for the establishment of a voluntary isolation site, said the Minister. She added, “these spaces will help lower community spread by supporting spaces for Canadians who are not able to safely self-isolate, due to housing conditions or financial constraints”.
Things do not happen quickly or easily. The announcement comes nearly two months after Peel Public Health initially applied for the funding on October 5th. For months, Mayor Brown has been calling on Government to assist with the necessary funds for an isolation centre, particularly in Brampton East. The $6.5 million is welcome news, but is it enough? According to Dr. Loh, the program is the expansion of an existing site for voluntary isolation.
Currently, the Mississauga is operating at capacity (25 infected individuals). Starting December 1st, the additional funding will allow the program to immediately grow that capacity to 80, with the possibility of including additional sites, later. “Not good enough”, say advocates of self-isolation centres in Brampton.
Mayor Brown expressed frustration that funds will not be immediately directed for two possible locations in the city in support of the local essential workers. Currently, two of the three most impacted hospital systems in the Province are located in the Region of Peel. To cope, both William Osler Health System, and, Trillium Health Partners, have activated surge capacity plans and are now cancelling elective surgeries and some treatments.
Evidently, it is increasingly difficult to control the spread of Covid-19 within densely populated neighbourhoods. The positivity rate exceeds 10% in the Region of Peel; in Brampton, it is over 13%. Household transmission is a major driver of that spread, especially in communities where it is difficult to safely isolate. Providing timely access to such facilities can make the difference in breaking the chain of transmission, argues Mayor Brown. Testing, contact tracing, and isolation are key factors in mitigating the spread of Covid-19. Public Health officials point out that we are short on facilities for isolation.

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