Loading articles...

Is there a safe way to be home for the holidays? COVID-19 biostatistician tackles the travel dilemma

Last Updated Nov 18, 2020 at 9:45 pm EST

Pandemic-weary Ontarians tempted to visit out-of-town family and friends during the winter holidays should first consider whether they’re leaving or travelling to a hotspot.

That’s according to biostatistician Ryan Imgrund, who offers this advice: if you live in a red, yellow or orange zone region, the failsafe option is not to travel to a green zone.

“There’s a reason that they’re in the green zone – it’s because they don’t have any cases coming in,” Imgrund said. Most of the GTA is in the red zone of Ontario’s colour-coded Covid-19 framework.

“I would say the only time that it may be safe to travel from one region to the next is if you’re in a green zone yourself, you’re traveling to another green zone, and you’re able to make sure that you meet the restrictions of that other green zone,” said Imgrund. “That would be the only time that it’s really, really safe.”

Ontario has imposed a patchwork of restrictions to tame the second wave, allowing local authorities to decide what’s best for their own regions.

“So even though two zones may be yellow, their local medical officer of health, may have actually put in restrictions where there’s further restrictions to what your yellow zone may actually have,” Imgrund said

The premier has cautioned against interprovincial travel over the holidays. But the government’s guidance about travelling from one Ontario region to the next has been unclear, leaving some struggling with a stay-or-go dilemma.

Imgrund recalls the province’s conflicting messaging over trick-or-treating earlier this year. “I think that is a recurring theme that we’ve seen with this government is that the clarity has been lacking in a lot of recommendations.”

The Ford government has vowed to provide recommendations soon on holiday celebrations, after Ontario’s top public health doctor said this week he would like to see every region in green zones by Christmas. The health minister called it an optimistic assessment.

But Imgrund believes the public is being given false hope for the holidays.

“It’s not just optimistic, it’s actually wrong.”

CityNews reached out to the province’s Ministry of Health about any inter-city or inter-province travel recommendations.

In a statement, they said that the government’s current advice along with that of the Chief Medical Officer of Health is that “individuals and families from higher transmission zones should avoid travel to lower transmission zones, except for essential reasons. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the Ontario government will provide further guidance on how to ensure everyone has a safe and healthy holiday.”