At an Oct. 8 press conference, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, said that most new cases of COVID-19 in Peel are linked to workplaces, banquet hall events such as weddings, and private social gatherings and not bars, restaurants, gyms or retail outlets.
Loh’s statement comes at a time when Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, is asking the province to temporarily ban indoor dining and implement other restrictions on some businesses in Toronto.
At the press conference, Loh, who appeared alongside Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, said that Peel’s situation does not yet mirror Toronto’s, even though both areas are reporting consistently high numbers of new daily cases.
On Oct. 8, the province reported 797 new COVID-19 cases, with 265 cases found in Toronto, 182 in Ottawa, 134 in Peel and 78 in York Region.
While Toronto Public Health recently announced that about 18 (44 per cent) of 45 community outbreaks recorded between Sept. 20 and 26 were linked to restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, Peel Public Health says the picture is different in a region made up of multi-generational detached homes and more outbreak-prone workplaces such as factories, manufacturing plants and warehouses.
Loh said that Peel Public Health is still able to successfully contact-trace new cases (something Toronto Public Health has said it’s unable to do as robustly), but he asked residents to limit or cancel/postpone non-essential travel within and outside of Peel, saying that the situation in Peel “could change at any time.”
“Peel continues to see high, consistent levels of transmission and while it’s mostly in known chains, that could change at any moment,” he said.
“We’re seeing spread in large workplaces such as factories, manufacturing plants and warehouses. We see significant household transmission and one major driver has been social gatherings.”
Loh urged residents to follow de Villa’s advice to avoid any non-essential travel to Toronto. He also advised Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon residents to restrict travel in general and leave home only for work, school, exercise, essential appointments (such as medical or vehicle-related ones) or to purchase food, gas or other essential goods.
“Limit in-person contacts as much as possible and limit close contacts to your household and essential supports as much as possible. Postpone, cancel or visit people virtually. If you must visit, less is more and try to stay outdoors,” he said.
As for Thanksgiving, both Crombie and Loh urged residents to celebrate only with the people they already live with.
“If we don’t do the right thing right here and right now, we’re all putting Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa on the line,” Crombie said.
“The best way to stay safe and be thankful this year is by keeping gatherings to your immediate household members and your essential supports. If you insist that your extended family must be involved, we ask you to please consider celebrating virtually or take it outside. I can’t emphasize this enough, the best way to keep your family and friends safe this year is to stick to your immediate household.”
When asked whether or not the region will be recommending against trick-or-treating on Halloween (or even moving to ban it altogether), Loh said that recommendations are coming, adding that the province might also issue its own rules or guidance in the not-too-distant future.