The Ontario Hospital Association has called on the Government of Ontario to "immediately place restrictions on non-essential businesses and activities" that lead to social gatherings, in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The province has seen a significant rise in reported coronavirus cases over the last two weeks — just days ago, Premier Doug Ford announced stricter rules for social gatherings in virus hotspots throughout the province, including reducing the size of public gatherings to 10 people inside and 25 outdoors.
Now, the physicians and healthcare leaders specializing in infectious diseases, general internal medicine, medical microbiology and infection prevention and control (IPAC) who make up the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) are asking the provincial government to promptly place restrictions on places and activities that increase opportunities for exposure to the illness.
Included in the association's list of recommendations are dine-in restaurants and bars, nightclubs, gyms, theatres, and places of worship.
Further, the OHA is imploring the province to ask non-essential businesses to have staff work remotely, as well as instruct post-secondary institutions to offer classes online where its possible to do so.
"Given the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, and the speed at which this virus spreads, now is the time to put public health measures in place to immediately limit opportunities for disease transmission," reads the OHA's statement.
"Ontario reported 478 cases on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of approximately 400 cases/day – a figure last seen in May at the height of the pandemic. Without immediate action, we know from international experience that this extremely contagious and life-threatening virus will spread rapidly through our schools, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings."
The document notes that, although maintaining the province's economy is "always a priority," the association is concerned that, without action, the current rate of spread will require a return to widespread non-essential business and school closures to prevent a rise in hospitalizations.
"At this juncture, the Public Health Agency of Canada is warning that Canada will reach 5,000 new daily cases by October (an increase from around 1,248 new cases reported yesterday). Other jurisdictions have underestimated the speed of which this virus can spread and are now facing the consequence of increased hospitalization rates, including a rise in intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and more deaths," the association said.
"Now is not the time for hesitancy. We must regain a firm grip on the virus to ensure those who are most susceptible in our province stay protected."
The Ontario Hospital Association distributed its statement on behalf of 38 healthcare leaders and physicians, including those from Sinai Health, Scarborough Health Network, University of Toronto, University Health Network, the Hospital for Sick Children, and others.