Toronto Public Health vice-chair questions city’s COVID-19 policy direction
Toronto Public Health vice-chair Dr. David Shulkin said it was “very dismaying” to see Toronto’s decision to temporarily close non-essential businesses ahead of the Easter weekend, which came as the city was preparing for its first major outbreak.
“We have to move to more socially distancing measures because of our risk exposure, but that’s the very essence of science.”
Dr. Shulkin’s comments underscore the delicate balancing act that public health agencies have to make as they work to prevent outbreaks while allowing people to go about their ordinary lives or “prime quarantine” as they see fit.
In an interview, the physician-geneticist said the city’s decision to close non-essential businesses was “a little bit too soon,” adding many restaurants, bars and retail stores could not be safely closed because they sell alcohol.
He said the city would be foolish to close such stores in the near future because of current health protection measures in place.
In order to get everyone back on their feet, Dr. Shulkin said there needs to be a series of “mini-disinfections” to keep everyone safe, such as providing people with face masks or asking them to not eat anything in public places for a week before schools, workplaces and daycares reopen.
“I wish we were going to see that but we have to be ready now,” he added.
He also said the city and its partners need to better prepare for the next pandemic. “We need to be prepared for a much bigger catastrophe,” he said.
He criticized the Ontario government for what he called its “not-ready” response to COVID-19. He said even though the province has been testing extensively, there aren’t enough tests so the province doesn’t have enough cases yet, creating a situation where people remain at risk.
“It makes me angry at all levels,” he said.
Toronto Public Health is an independent agency that serves over 1.4 million residents with health promotion and public health initiatives.