Should we be told everything there is to know about outbreaks of COVID-19 in our local municipalities?  

Or should some information be held back to avoid alarming us?  

Martin Regg Cohn, writing in this morning’s Toronto Star, comes down squarely on the side of maximum openness and transparency:

“Until journalists revealed the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Ontario nursing homes, there had been no public disclosure of the local outbreaks. Our politicians and officials default to withholding information, keen to avoid panic or inclined to put the best face forward.”

He goes on:

“In a pandemic, hoarding data is like hoarding prescription drugs. Until a vaccine can inoculate us from COVID-19, sunshine is the best disinfectant — and the antidote to darkness.”

York Region has a webpage devoted to COVID-19 which gives statistics on the number of cases by municipality. There’s also a mass of other useful information.

Where are the outbreaks?   

During this morning’s virtual meeting of York Regional Council, Vaughan Regional Councillor Linda Jackson wanted to know where the COVID-19 cases are in the City of Vaughan – which is home to 48% of all cases in the Region.

The Region’s medical officer of health, Dr Karim Kurgi, says he is loathe to release too much information to the public in case it stigmatises groups or has other unintended consequences.

I can see his point although I disagree with it. If the pandemic were raging in Newmarket (which it isn’t) would people, for example, give the Costco warehouse a miss and go somewhere else with fewer reported cases? Possibly.

The answer, wherever people choose to shop, is to get everyone to behave as if they are carrying the dreaded virus and act accordingly. At Costco this morning about 20% of shoppers wore face masks and people were mostly diligent about observing the two metre rule.

A virus on steroids

Newmarket councillor Tom Vegh asked Dr Kurgi about the virulence of the virus. Astonishingly, one case of Covid-19 can give rise to another 250 in one month in the absence of any intervention. This is a virus on steroids.

Despite this, Dr Kurgi seems quietly confident we could see a peak and then a plateau in Covid cases in York Region in a week or ten days. This seems wildly optimistic.

He concedes that we in York Region “are not an island unto ourselves” but points to the statistics which he believes tell their own story. 

The Mayor of Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua, wonders aloud why Dr Kurgi’s optimism is not reflected in other experts’ opinions.

That’s precisely the question I would have asked.

Everywhere I look I see doomsday predictions of this contagion lasting many, many months.

Stratford goes dark

We go to Stratford twice a year – in May and in September. The Festival has cancelled all productions in April and May and it must be doubtful if the programme can go-ahead in September. Actors learn their lines and must rehearse. If they don’t they will forget their lines – especially if they are doing two or more plays at the same time. I know I would.

I was looking forward to the Edinburgh Festival in August but this too has been cancelled along with the International Book Festival and Fringe.

Even in the United States (where Trump initially told Americans coronavirus was a Democrat hoax) live events, movie releases and productions have been dramatically affected by the virus.

I fear we will not be out of the woods any time soon.

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Update on 3 April 2020: COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people in Ontario, provincial modelling shows. And it could be around for 18 months to two years. The table below updates figures for York Region reported today, 3 April 2020.

 

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