Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has released "the way forward" for the province to strategically manage the COVID-19 pandemic, with a list of six things that will reduce COVID-19 transmission, protect the health system, and allow the province to re-open safely, while outlining three policy considerations that will not be effective.
One of the things the advisory table says "won't work" has been a big discussion in Ontario recently - outdoor activity.
"Policies that discourage safe outdoor activity will not control COVID-19 and will disproportionately harm children and those who do not have access to their own greenspace, especially those living in crowded conditions," the information reads.
This comes after the Ontario government rolled back a restriction on playgrounds across the province on Saturday.
Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table called out that COVID-19 policies that "harm or neglect racialized, marginalized and other vulnerable populations," will not be effective as the pandemic is disproportionately impacting people in these communities.
Additionally, the advisory tables states that "inconsistent policies with no clear link to scientific evidence are ineffective in fighting COVID-19."
What will work to fight COVID-19 in Ontario?
There are six specific points that the Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table have outlined as things that will actually help fight virus in the province.
The six items are:
Essential workplaces, only: Only "truly essential" indoor workplaces should be open while "strictly enforcing COVID-19 safety measures," including mandatory mask wearing indoors and when in close contact with others outdoors.
Paying essential workers to stay home when they are sick, exposed or need time to get vaccinated: The advisory table indicates that many individuals who go to work when sick or after being exposed to COVID-19 do so because they "have no choice," they need to pay their rent and feed their families, but the federal Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB) "does not provide enough financial support." An emergency benefit needs to be accessible and available for essential worker who have been exposed, need to get tested or vaccinated.
Accelerating the vaccination of essential workers and those who live in hot spots: Ontarians in hotspot neighbourhoods, vulnerable populations, and essential workers should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccinations should be promoted with "more intensive and effective on-the-ground community outreach."
Limiting mobility: The advisory table stressed that COVID-19 "is not a single pandemic" as different areas are experiencing different problems, and movement between regions creates a risk for new hotspots.
Focusing on public health guidance that works: People in Ontario cannot gather indoors with people from another household but they can spend time together outdoors, two-metres apart, wearing masks and while keeping hands clean.
Keeping people safely connected: Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table recognizes that "maintaining social connections and outdoor activity" are important, and has advised that small groups of people from different households can meet outside with masking and two-metre physical distancing.
"There is no trade-off between economic, social and health priorities in the midst of a pandemic that is out of control," the information from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table reads. "The fastest way back to work – and to all the other things that make life in Ontario great – is to get this disease under control as quickly as we can, together."
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) has also stated its support and endorsement of the six recommendations from the Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, calling on the provincial government to implement this strategy.
"People are dying and being hospitalized at staggering rates, but those rates are not equal among all Ontarians," a statement from OMA president, Dr. Samantha Hill, reads. "We call on the government to implement immediately all of the solutions proposed by the Science Advisory Table to stop the virus from transmitting in our workplaces and hotspot neighbourhoods."
"Failure to do so allows the virus to continue to spread. Failure to do so allows more Ontarians to fall ill, need hospitalization and die. Failure to do so risks doctors' ability to care for any of us."