Editorial: A pandemic muddle the Doug Ford government must fix

Here are six things Ontario officials should do as public confusion grows over COVID.

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says “it doesn’t appear necessary” to take further provincial measures against COVID. Premier Doug Ford asserts that as case numbers rise, the province can always “ramp up” to 3,000 ICU beds. If they mean to be reassuring, they’re failing.

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COVID cases are ballooning (to the extent provincial and local authorities now measure them); wastewater signs are lapping upward; and hospitalizations are climbing. Practically everyone now knows someone who has had COVID.

What is this sixth wave, for which there are so few mandated measures in place, all about? How worried should we be? Premier Ford, Minister Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore: the public is utterly confused. Was this what you intended? Surely not. So fix it.

First, it’s time for Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer, to resurface. Recently, he stopped his weekly briefings. Some think that, with an Ontario election in June, he’s been muzzled. Resurface, Dr. Moore — if only for your own reputation.

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Second, bump up PCR testing and, hence, improve reporting of cases. (Let’s not be Donald Trump, who reasoned that if you don’t test, numbers decrease and the problem thus disappears. Is that really our behavioural model?)

Third, come clean on the availability of antivirals such as Paxlovid. The Citizen’s Elizabeth Payne reported this week on an Ottawa woman who, despite qualifying for the antiviral, couldn’t get the drug for days even though she had done everything right. The premier insists it’s available. Uh-huh.

Fourth, while you wait for updated guidance on who should get a fourth vaccine, pull out all the stops to persuade people to get their third one. A third dose offers 85-to-95-per-cent protection against having to go to the hospital (two doses gives about 50-per-cent protection). Help local health officials push out this message  loudly and constantly. All MPPS should be fairly shouting it.

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Fifth, be crystal-clear on what is now known about variant BA.2 and what your realistic aims are. Ontarians assume public health measures are meant to, well, keep us healthy — which is true, in a collective sense. But in practice, your goal is to hold hospitalizations down so the health system doesn’t crumble. You’ll settle for many more folks getting sick if they’re likely to recover without burdening hospitals. Explain this clearly as you harp on about “living with COVID” and “returning to normal.” What should our realistic expectations be about our own, individual health? Some doctors think everyone will eventually get this virus. Are they right?

Sixth, Bring back the damn mask mandates for another month. Is that really so hard?

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