The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) says the government’s announcement of easing measures is premature for many parts of the province.
Nurses ask Premier Ford not to open up parts of the province before ensuring the necessary public health measures are in place to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of Ontarians and to control the spread of COVID-19. In particular, it is essential to wait three weeks after schools re-open in a specific region to make sure epidemiological data is moving in the right direction. It is also essential to have measures in place so people do not travel between regions, especially ones where stronger public health guidelines may be in place compared with a neighbouring region with less strict guidelines in place.
RNAO says the government’s announcement is premature because:
- Contact tracing and isolation must be strengthened across the province to handle the existing number of infections.
- The growth and spread of new variants, especially when more cases of variants of the virus are appearing in Ontario.
- Case counts are still well above 1,200 per day, much higher than during the peak of the first wave in the spring.
- Residents in long-term care homes continue to die on a daily basis. And they make up a disproportionate number of the total deaths (3,659 of 6,498 as of Feb.7) in Ontario due to the virus.
- ICU beds are still well above the 150 threshold deemed an indication of an overwhelmed system.
- Health-care providers are exhausted and that, in itself, poses a risk.
- Vaccine supplies are not plentiful enough until the middle of March.
- Ontario doesn’t have a clear rollout plan in place that utilizes all of its existing infrastructures and resources, such as primary care and home care nurses, physicians and pharmacists, to ensure vaccinations can be delivered 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
RNAO also urges the government to immediately act to protect vulnerable communities. RNAO has repeatedly urged Premier Ford to cover paid sick days to protect workers who do not have access to them as part of their employment. RNAO has also demanded that the government enact a full moratorium on evictions and provide places for people to self-isolate safely while awaiting test results.
All of these factors must be considered in the government’s plan to begin re-opening the economy.
While RNAO understands that businesses are hurting, opening up too soon carries an inherent risk that affects everyone in this province, especially those most vulnerable, and who have assumed the greatest burden of this relentless virus. It is the responsibility of government to provide proper economic supports for businesses closed or suffering due to public health measures.
RNAO says that instead of reopening and being distracted by the worrisome impact of the new variants and the potential larger spread of these – which would throw us right into a third wave of this pandemic – the province should focus on a fulsome and sharp vaccine rollout plan, given the arrival of a large vaccine shipment is just a month away.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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