Peel tries to change ‘dire’ outlook for COVID-19 with restrictions to stop private gatherings

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Peel Medical Officer of Health advocates for residents to limit their interactions with people outside their home households after issuing tough new restrictions on weddings, workplaces and banquet halls in a bid to quell the COVID-19 flames raging in his community.

After becoming the largest COVID-19 hotspot in Ontario, with cases continuing to worsen and hospitals struggling to cope, Peel’s new health measures go beyond the latest provincial checks and urge people not to leave their homes except for essential activities.

“The image we see in Peel is increasingly dire,” area medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh said at a press conference Monday morning. He said it was “crucial to take decisive action”.

In Brampton, 12.3% of COVID-19 tests come back positive, while the Region of Peel reported a test positive rate of 9.4%. The same week – Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 – Mississauga recorded a test positivity rate of 6.5% and Caledon a 9.9% rate, according to preliminary data from Peel Public Health.

As of Nov. 9, the region had an infection rate of 142 cases per 100,000 people per week – still by far the highest in Ontario – and an increase of more than 40 cases from the previous week, according to the continuing tally of the Star.

William Osler Health System began transferring inpatients to other hospitals in the GTA on Friday after a surge in its emergency departments led to dangerous overcrowding. The hospital system has already postponed around 50 elective surgeries and Osler President and CEO Dr Naveed Mohammad said on Monday that the new checks were crucial to help ensure that the Brampton Civic Hospital and the Etobicoke General Hospital can maintain health services for the community.

Under Peel’s new restrictions, which go beyond the boundaries of the Red or the province’s Control Zone, wedding receptions are banned at least until the New Year. Social gatherings at businesses like banquet halls celebrating life events, such as engagements and retirement parties, are also not allowed.

Workplaces are reserved for essential visitors and meeting and event spaces are closed.

Celebrations and weddings are a major driver of COVID-19, Loh said, citing a recent wedding in York Region that led to 33 cases in Peel.

Places of worship will be limited to 30% of the building’s capacity for a maximum of 50 people inside, and people are welcome to sit with their own household.

Restaurants, bars and gyms will be able to remain open, although under provincial restrictions, there can only be 10 people at a time.

As with the speed limits, Loh is hopeful most people follow the rules and said there will be no penalty for small gatherings. If people live alone, they are advised to only socialize with one other household.

“Our aim will be to catch the most egregious, including the large gatherings that we have identified in our instructions,” he told reporters.

Loh hopes these temporary measures will cut the chain of transmission for COVID-19 to keep schools open, avoid a total lockdown like in the spring, and “I hope we can have a chance for the December break.”

“I know you will do what is right for you, your family and your community to prevent us from moving forward in the provincial framework to the lockdown stage,” he said.

In recent weeks, Peel has struggled to keep up with contact tracing, which is crucial in curbing the spread of the virus.

Since the end of October, 10 public health units across the province have been helping Peel track her COVID-19 case and contact management after an explosion of cases after Thanksgiving weekend. Yet between October 27 and November 2, only 56% of cases were contacted within 24 hours. The target is 90%.

On Monday, Ontario announced new support to boost Peel testing. The province is opening several new testing sites in the Brampton hotspot, allowing walk-in visits to assessment centers for people who can’t get appointments and preparing more hospital beds while the number of new infections is reaching levels 20% higher than a week ago.

A spokesperson for Osler said the healthcare system is currently testing an average of around 1,750 to 1,800 people per day between its hospital sites, assessment centers and COVID-19, cold and flu clinic.

Dr Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, said Loh deserved recognition for making “a very strong appeal” to the new restrictions.

They may not be easy to apply, he said. “But if it changes the behavior of a large part of the population, it will always make a difference.”

The new restrictions, a mix of strong recommendations and enforceable measures, go to the heart of the “cycle” he has seen specific to the region.

There has been a “hyper focus” on mailing to bars and restaurants, but unlike other places, Chakrabarti said these businesses are not the main problem in Peel.

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Instead, people often get infected in large workplaces like factories or when returning from international trips. They then transmit the virus to family or roommates in large multigenerational households, and it spreads between households during private gatherings such as weddings or religious ceremonies.

According to the latest epidemiological update for the region, 47% of the total cases were probably acquired through family contact, 14% through close contact outside the home, 3% through outbreaks in the workplace and around 5 % through travel. In about 22% of cases, the source of exposure is unknown.

The public often thinks of a party that causes COVID as a “loud college kegger,” Chakrabarti said, but it can easily spread in smaller, more intimate environments, such as showers, worship events, or parties. ‘anniversary.

“You can easily shut down a group of 200 people, but when thousands of people have to get together between 12 and 15 people, that’s when it’s a lot harder to monitor that.”

Given the large proportion of multigenerational homes, an isolation center where people could safely separate from their families, like the one in Toronto, would certainly be useful, he added. Loh said at the press conference that the health unit is in discussions with the federal government about funding something like this.

Osler infectious disease and infection control specialist Dr Mahin Baqi said a disturbing pattern has emerged in his hospitals that highlights why reducing the spread in the community is essential.

During the spring wave, many COVID hospital patients were transferred from struggling long-term care homes in its service area. Today, many admitted patients come from multi-family homes, she said.

“We are seeing infections for the first time in 20- to 40-year-olds. They are tested in our assessment centers, then their parents and grandparents are admitted to the hospital afterwards.

Baqi said there was still a “stigma” associated with testing for COVID-19 for many members of the community, especially for essential workers who cannot work from home.

“This work pays off to feed their families, to clothe their families, to house their families,” she said, stressing that the province must not only facilitate screening, but also ensure fair and fair workplace supports. fair in all sectors. .

“If they can’t go to work, they can’t provide for their families, so they don’t get tested. A positive test means they won’t work. “

“They shouldn’t be penalized for having COVID, which they may have acquired in their workplace.”

Chakrabarti added that it is also important to ensure that advice reaches communities, communicating with leaders and ensuring that instructions are translated.

“It’s a very, very important part, rather than just trying to come up with a bunch of top-down recommendations without any kind of engagement from the people involved.”

With files from Rob Ferguson

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