LILLEY: Even if Ford rolls back COVID restrictions, others will remain

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Does it make sense that Ontario remains masked up and still somewhat locked down given the current state of COVID-19 in the province?

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British Columbia and Alberta opened up on July 1 and dropped the need for wearing a mask in most settings.

Ontario just isn’t there yet, and it’s due to a bad combination of decisions made by politicians and public health regulators at all three levels of government.

“Are there benchmarks or potential indicators that you’re looking for to remove the mask mandate?” Premier Doug Ford was asked during a news conference Monday morning.

“We’re going to take the directions from the health team and work with them,” Ford said.

The truth of the matter is Ford could lift all provincial restrictions and depending on where you live, there will still be a long list of local restrictions to follow. For example, Toronto has extended its masking rules until Oct. 1.

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The city has a temporary bylaw in place that “requires people to wear masks or face coverings in common areas of businesses, apartments, and condominiums.” A similar bylaw mandates physical distancing while another lays out rules requiring businesses to follow from capacity limits to signage to closing “non-essential common areas.”

Ottawa city council has passed similar bylaws that remain in force. In Peel Region, masks are required, while outdoor farmer’s markets and municipal pools are ordered closed by local mandate.

So if provincial rules are lifted, local ones will remain in place unless local councils and public health officers decide to roll back these measures. I don’t see Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer, willingly rolling back any measures. She is the epitome of caution in the extreme.

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Are any of these measures currently justified? Given the numbers, I’d say the answer is an easy no.

On Monday, Ontario reported just 170 news COVID-19 cases in a province of 14.7 million people, and there are just 155 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the whole province. If the argument was to keep businesses closed, to restrict what activities were allowed in order to help overburdened hospitals, then that argument, that reason, no longer exists.

But the doctors we’ve been told must be listened to are still saying we have to wait.

“I do think a 21-day interval is prudent, and I personally don’t want to see that shortened, because we need to be data-driven in the face of this new enemy,” said Dr. Kieran Moore.

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Moore is the province’s new chief medical officer of health and when it comes to embracing lockdown measures and only relaxing them slowly, he is very much in line with his predecessor, Dr. David Williams. Moore said he wants his decisions to be “data-driven” but the data

’t support keeping restrictions in place.

We have 77% of the population 12 and older with one vaccine shot and 43% with two shots. The province is well past the benchmark for entering Step 3 of the province’s reopening, but Moore says no, the local doctors say no and even the federal government says no.

The Trudeau government has stated that the border needs to be closed until 75% of the total population across the country is fully vaccinated. Their way of measuring includes children not eligible for the vaccine, meaning that we need even greater numbers of people eligible to get both shots before the border can get back to normal.

None of these restrictions make sense at this point, the numbers don’t support it, and they should be lifted.

We should focus on the province and pressure Ford and Moore to open up sooner than the current target of 2 1/2 weeks from now. Yet, we also need to pressure local politicians and public health officers to lift their restrictions and for the federal government to get realistic on the border.

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