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Toronto's top doctor urges province to ban indoor dining, close gyms for 4 weeks

Last Updated Oct 2, 2020 at 5:46 pm EST

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa address the media on the city's latest COVID-19 efforts.

Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is urging the province to adopt even stricter public health measures for the city as Toronto sees its case count grows.

In a letter to the Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Dr. Eileen De Villa said Toronto has seen a six-fold increase in their seven-day moving average, from 40 on Sept 1 to 236 on Sept. 29.

One of the main recommendations from Dr. De Villa is a suspension of indoor service for one month, which represents two incubation periods for the virus. Restaurants would still be able to continue outdoor, takeout, pickup and delivery services.

Currently, a restaurant can have up to 75 people indoors with only six individuals allowed at a table.

Of the 45 community outbreaks reported between Sept. 20 and 26, about 18 were in restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, including one at Yonge Street Warehouse where up to 1,700 people may have been exposed to the virus and Regulars on King West where there were another 600 potential exposures.

Dr. De Villa also recommends residents only leave their homes for essential activities, similar to the restrictions during the first wave of COVID-19. She says people should only leave their homes for work, education, fitness, health care appointments and to purchase food.

While Ontario restricted gyms to 50 people per building and only 10 people per class Friday, Dr. De Villa says that doesn’t go far enough and recommends indoor group classes in gyms, and indoor activities for recreation and sports teams be discontinued for four weeks as well.

“The nature of these activities creates a real risk of virus spread and we have seen exactly that in our community,” she said.

She also encouraged the province to review the public health measures applied to large venues, such as banquet halls. She’d like them to submit a plan to Toronto Public Health which shows how they plan to deal with capacity limits, physical distancing and collection of contact information.

Dr. De Villa said while she does have some authority under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, the measures she is asking for would be “unprecedented” for someone in her position and that “such action likely exceeds my authority and may render me personally liable.” That’s why she hopes the province will consider implementing these temporary measures for the next month.

“My proposals are meant to prevent the conditions that would force a large scale lockdown,” she said during an afternoon briefing. “The further steps I propose build logically on those announced by the province and provide for a made-in-Toronto solution for the distinct needs of our city.”

There are currently 169 active outbreaks in the city of Toronto, including in congregate settings like schools, childcare centres, workplaces, and long-term care homes.