Media Report Says Ontario Gov Rejected Public Health Advice on New Colour System

The colour-coded COVID-19 control system has been the subject of controversy and conversation since the moment it was released last week. But that controversy has gone up to a whole new level with a new media report that says while the plan was made in consultation with public health workers, it did not reflect their best advise on slowing the spread.

According to reporting in the Toronto Star, Public Health Ontario had set some very different thresholds for the various colour-coded conditions than what was announced. For instance, PHO prescribed that the threshold for level “Red – Control” should be 25 cases per 100,000 people, or 2.5 per cent or more, but in the final plan revealed by the Ontario government last week, the threshold was set at 100 cases per 100,000 or 10 per cent or more.

“The Modelling Consensus Table was not consulted,” Beate Sander told the Star, and she should would know because she’s the co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Modelling Consensus Table.

“I’m not in agreement with the indicators as they are currently written in the framework,” added Dr. Shelley Deeks, the chief health protection officer of Public Health Ontario.

That’s interesting because the Minister of Health seemed to imply that Ontario’s public health officials were behind the plan when it was introduced last week. “Our response framework was developed in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Public Health Measures Table, local medical officers of health and other health experts,” said Christine Elliott at a press conference last Tuesday.

Deeks told the Star that she appreciates that the government has to balance disease control with other economic and societal concerns, but she explained that the tough measures of the PHO were meant to act decisively slow the spread of the virus early.

“Delaying more severe measures or tighter measures means generally that we will be in it for a longer period of time, because at that point, it’s just so out of control that it takes us much longer to to get back to a level that we can manage easily, where we can have some kind of semblance of normal life,” Deeks said.

Normal life seemed further away on Thursday with another new daily record for new cases. In all there were 1,575 new COVID-19 cases today, which is a day-over-day jump of 10.4 per cent. Nearly one-third of the new cases are in Toronto, which was supposed to re-open indoor dining and loosen other restrictions this weekend, but Toronto’s medical officer of health decided Tuesday that the closures need to continue.

“While we’ve seen some progress with the temporary restrictions that were imposed last month, more action is required now to protect the people of Toronto from rampant virus spread,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa. “Given the circumstances, as your Medical Officer of Health, I am using my authority to take actions that are necessary given what our city and our residents are facing.”

“In my professional opinion the greatest harm would be to allow COVID-19 to continue to spread at this rate,” de Villa added.

The news from the Star was received by opposition leaders with disappointment and anger.

“Ford is putting lives and livelihoods at risk by misleading the public,” said Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner in a statement. “After so much suspicion of his dangerously weak COVID benchmarks, now we have reason to believe these numbers were cooked up by politicians, not by health experts.”

The government’s reckless disregard for science ultimately puts our economy and people’s jobs at risk. What is good for public health is good for the economy,” Schreiner added. “It’s a shocking breach of trust.”

“Doug Ford and Christine Elliott repeatedly said they were taking the advice of medical experts when they cancelled public health measures in hot zones. They lied,” said Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath in her own statement. “They gambled with people’s lives and now experts project Ontario could hit 2,000 new cases a day next month.”

“In the last 24-hours alone, Ontario’s nursing homes saw 24 new deaths. That’s one grandparent lost every hour because of Doug Ford’s lies. He has betrayed these grieving families,” said Liberal leader Steven Del Duca in his statement. “Doug Ford told us we could trust him. He told us he would follow the science. He told us he would keep our grandparents safe. He told us it was safe to pack kids into overcrowded classrooms.

“How can we ever trust him to tell the truth again?” Del Duca added.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is still listed as “Yellow – Protect” like many of the public health authorities in the Central West region including Hamilton, Halton, and Waterloo Region. On Thursday, public health announced that our region has crossed 100 active cases for the first time in the course of the pandemic with 44 in Guelph, 27 in Wellington County, 21 in Dufferin County, and nine more that are presently unassigned.

There were 23 new cases of COVID-19 in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph on Thursday.

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