As Brampton and Mississauga COVID cases rise, Peel’s top doctor warns of 'playing with fire' if restrictions are further relaxed

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As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in Brampton and Mississauga, Peel Region's top doctor says we are “playing with fire" if COVID restrictions continue to be loosened.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh warned that pressure to move Peel Region from its current status in the grey lockdown zone to the less restrictive red zone is a dangerous option that shouldn't be considered as COVID-19 cases - especially the variants of concern - continue to increase.

"Our conversations must turn away from the loosening of measures and instead we must focus on what we can do to stop this resurgence," said Dr. Loh at a morning press conference in Brampton today. "Any further loosening of measures at this time where vaccine coverage remains low will mean lives lost and severe cases of the disease, especially among younger and middle aged adults who are increasingly more vulnerable to the variants of concern."

To back up his statements new data today shows the positivity rate for those tested for the virus in Brampton continues to rise and now stands at 14.5 per cent. Last week that rate stood at 12.2 percent positive compared to all those who have been tested.

As well, another indicator of severity is the number of cases per 100,000. As of today Brampton stands at 227 positive cases per 100,000, up from 173 just a week ago. To put it into perspective, to safely move into the red zone Ontario health officials say the rate should be 40 per 100,000.

As well, 45 patients are now being treated at Brampton Civic Hospital for COVID-19 with 33 other suspected cases. Eight people are in the intensive care unit.

Dr. Loh said hospitals are starting to fill up with younger people who have the variants and are showing severe symptoms and forcing them into longer hospital stays.

"Unfortunately, as the variants start to take hold, our own measures here in Peel are no longer holding back case growth and subsequently hospitalizations," he said. "We must double down on the critical goal of holding the line until the protection of vaccines take flight."

Dr. Loh stressed that beyond the outdoor activity and the re-opening of personal care services and outdoor dining that were recently announced as part of the loosening of restrictions, the province should put the brakes on any other less stringent measures.

"At this point in time I would not support any further loosening of measures beyond what has already been announced and engaged," he said. "I think beyond that is playing with fire and certainly we continue to monitor the trends, especially what is happening in the hospitals, with great trepidation. Certainly if there would be a need to pull back that would not be something I would be averse to recommending."

Although the Ontario government had early announced the loosening of restrictions in the grey zone that will allow greater outdoor gatherings as well access to personal care services and outdoor dining, Premier Doug Ford hinted today he may have to walk back some of those promises because of the rapidly rising increase of COVID cases.

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