Ontario Walked Right Into This Colossal Failure
April 2, 2021
Remember this. Remember the path this government chose, and that this was avoidable. Remember that the people running Ontario decided not to believe the warnings, and did not understand the data, and faced with a crisis had to argue for hours to do anything at all to try to stop it.
Remember that they arrived at half-measures that are weaker than the restrictions that this government abandoned in mid-February, and which never controlled COVID-19 well enough to deal with the variants that are now rampaging in this province. Remember this when cases rise and people are dying in hallways; remember this when hospitals run out of lifesaving drugs.
Remember that these half-measures required eight or nine hours of debate, from a government that has been told that no matter what, the hospitals are in deep trouble. Two days ago, Premier Doug Ford was promoting tourist season at Niagara Falls. Six days ago, his government was talking about reopening hair salons and barbershops and tattoo parlours.
This is a colossal failure, and Ontario walked right into it.
“If the worst-case scenarios come to fruition as the modelling suggests, we’re looking at a mass casualty event in Ontario’s hospitals and their critical care units,” says Anthony Dale, the head of the Ontario Hospital Association. “This is the biggest crisis in Ontario’s modern health-care history.”
Modelling from the province’s independent volunteer science table shows we are highly likely to see 800 COVID-19 patients in the ICU in Ontario. It is now possible we see more. The high for any point of the pandemic was 430, on Thursday morning. Maybe weather and vaccination hold it there. But 800 is horror.
“I don’t think we can imagine what it looks like, but what’s going to face our physicians well in advance of that number of 800, is to have a patient that needs ICU resources that in that moment you don’t have,” says Dr. Martin Betts, the head of critical care for Scarborough Health Network. “And we’re going to be forced to ask ourselves, who do we provide care to in that circumstance, and more importantly, who do we not provide critical care to in that circumstance. And that’s something that we’ve never had to contemplate before, I never imagined I’d have to do.
“And certainly after a year of preparation, where we have a good idea what public health interventions work and don’t work, to be faced with that is incredible to imagine, and so disappointing. Heartbreaking, is what it is.”
It is heartbreaking. It is negligence, and it is tragedy. This government decided science was bunk, or it decided the people dying weren’t people the government cared about, and then they blundered into this panicked half-shutdown. Ford blamed patios for the spread in Toronto and Peel, because when he drives around he sees those patios that the government opened are packed; in essence, he was blaming people for enjoying a relatively safe activity that his government allowed. He’s been in charge of this for over a year.
And Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of the province of Ontario, said the current state of restrictions is working in Toronto and Peel because cases are merely growing exponentially, rather than completely out of control. Oh, the damage he has done.
The worst part may be that none of this is surprising. The province didn’t adequately prepare for the second wave, didn’t prepare for vaccination, never adequately protected almost any vulnerable constituency — long-term care was only saved by vaccination — and then spurred a third wave by loosening restrictions.
So of course the third wave caught this government by surprise. Now hospitals are already running out of Tocilizumab, a drug that reduces mortality by about 20 per cent, and helps keep people from reaching the 50-50 mortality coin flip of a ventilator.
Did the province protect business? James Treadwell owns two restaurants, a catering company and a bakery in the Niagara region: he hired extra workers two weeks ago when patios were reopened, and is laying them off now, at great expense.
“I don’t think he understands how much it costs to close a business and reopen and close it again,” says Treadwell.
“There hasn’t been certainty. This is crippling this industry.”
Did the province protect public health? No, it didn’t do that, either.
“Sometimes we talk about public health measures and the economy, or public health measures and mental health, as a tradeoff,” said Dr. Steini Brown, the dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the co-chair of the science table.
“This is a false debate. The faster we get the pandemic under control, the faster we return to normal. Partial measures, half-hearted adherence and denial prolong the pandemic and make life harder for everyone. And this is particularly true for children and for youth.”
Partial measures, half-hearted adherence, denial. Toronto and Peel are the third- and fourth-hardest-hit regions in the country right now by case rate per capita, are seeing exponential case growth, and that is the standard of restrictions Ontario will apply across the province for at least 28 days. There is no stay-at-home order. Churches remain open, and schools. In some places this may slow case growth enough. In a province that is still without adequate paid sick leave and equitable vaccination, it won’t.
So what can we do? Protect yourself, first. Assume the virus is hunting you, and wear masks and stay apart. Get outside and encourage others to get outside, even if masked, even if six feet apart, even if barbecuing in a backyard or walking in a park. Good weather is a friend.
And steel yourself, because this will get bad. Face this, and maybe bang your pots and pans at 7 o’clock again to appreciate the health-care workers of Ontario who feel like they have been abandoned. Because they have.
But more than anything, remember. The fog of war envelops us all, but the government chose this.
And finally, I am sorry. I am sorry this government didn’t listen. I am sorry I and so many others did not convince them to avoid this place. I am sorry for the families that will mourn their dead, and I am sorry for the doctors who will have to decide who to save, and I am sorry for the vulnerable people, the businesses, the employees, and everyone who had been dragged through this. In a way, this felt like the worst day of the pandemic. Because we could have known better.
I am sorry, Ontario. Right now, I don’t know what else to say.
Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur
It has appeared that only a lockdown brings the numbers down. All of the less strict declarations seem to be taken as an invitation to do what you want by a certain percentage of the population.
Wow, this is sad. We always think the Canadians have got it together.
Doesn't bode well for the North Americans happening (as I think the organizers are going to make a go-no go decision this month). :-(
Ontario’s Premier (Ford) idolizes Trump. So that says enough right there and shows why Ontario is in such a mess. Trump Lite is in charge of Ontario. Yes a high school drop out former drug dealer runs our province.
Sadly if an election was held again today Ford would win an even bigger majority. Bashing teachers and making cuts to education whilst not taking advice from medical experts to make schools safe seems to score points with his right wing base. Teachers aren’t even on the radar for the government for vaccinations despite 25% of schools having outbreaks. Sickening to think this can happen in Canada. But the formula is straight out of the Republicans handbook on how to screw the people and benefit the rich.
re: NAOC. We pulled out a few weeks ago. I feel bad for the organizers but there really isn’t a way to call it a true Champs given how few Canadians are still registered. Canada has already said no to sending national teams to World Cup, WOC and JWOC. I won’t be surprised if NAOC is added to that list. It just isn’t safe to travel.
Despite how bad Ontario is it still is doing better than most US states in terms of cases and deaths per capita. But compared to the maritime provinces Ontario is a shit show.