If Doug Ford's handling of the pandemic in spring drew praises, he hasn't done a great job preventing the second wave from hitting Ontario. The ballooning Covid cases in the province have revealed the Ford government's failure to get its priorities straight as it reopened the economy. His policy rushing to restart the dining businesses as the school-reopening loomed ahead-- has put the Ontario school system under undue risks and hurt the province.
School reopening is crucial to the kids' education and their mental and physical well-being. It also goes a long way in overall economic recovery by reducing parents' barriers to returning to work. Driving down transmission in the communities was the key to kids' safe return to school. But with youths flooding the bars in the bustling city centers to enjoy their night outs, social and physical distancing rules went out the window, allowing the virus to spread among the inebriated late-night patrons silently. As a result, infected cases crept up and ballooned across the province.
In early Oct., Ontario continued to report record-breaking spikes, and the day-over-day growth rate repeatedly reached new highs. The concerning high level of Covid transmission in the community has increased the risk of spread in the school system and threatened close reopened classrooms, haunting parents with a recurring nightmare of having their children at home again. Before school started in late Aug., an overwhelming majority (nearly 80%) of Toronto neighborhoods met the Harvard guides of safe opening schools –by reporting one or fewer new daily infections per 100,000 people on a seven-day average. But a month later, just over 4 percent of Toronto communities fell into the school opening safety one.
Ford should have known perfectly well the risks involved in his decisions. The shocking resurgence of COVID-19 cases after reopening bars at home and abroad had set deterrent examples. In many American states, dining at restaurants and hanging out in bars drove the number of new cases to a record number. In St. Johns, Nfld., and Montreal, Covid 19 cases from bars were so high that authorities requested all visitors to a bar to get tested.
As Ontario premier, Ford's primary focus was the province's safety and the broader economic and social well-being, rather than to save a few businesses out of the crisis. But as a former business owner, he was over-empathetic towards the petty bourgeoisie's pandemic distress, which paralyzed his judgment and decision making. When cases started to surge in the province, with 44 percent tied to reopened restaurants and bars in the entertainment venues, Toronto medical officer of health sounded the alarm bell, recommending banning all indoor dining in the city. However, the top doctor's desperate plea seemed to fall on deaf ears, and the premier had dug in, saying he was unwilling to follow Toronto's top doctor's suggestions.
“If there is a request to shut down restaurants, I have to sit back and look at the evidence," Ford said at Queen's Park. "I am sorry I am not prepared to do that to people's lives right now."
When daily new cases hit almost 1000, forcing Ford to resort to his "toughest decision" to shut these businesses again, several schools in Toronto had faced a declaration of the outbreak and shutdown order. Ford might be acting in "good faith" by supporting the restaurant and bar industry, as Toronto Mayor John Tory said, but good faith does not always produce good results.
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