Bonnie Crombie urges patience as cases climb and hospitalization rates remain high in Mississauga

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With Ontario slowly reopening despite a recent uptick in cases, residents in Mississauga are getting anxious for city-owned outdoor amenities to become available—but Mayor Bonnie Crombie is urging residents to be patient as the city is still considered something of a COVID-19 hotspot in the province

In a note posted to Facebook, Crombie urged residents to work to flatten the curve a little while longer, reminding residents that research indicates the novel coronavirus is 10 times more contagious than the flu and potentially fatal—especially for seniors and people with underlying medical conditions. The note, written with the input of Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's Medical Officer of Health, also reiterates the fact that cases are on the rise in the GTA.

Although the province announced that it hit the peak in infections some weeks back, cases across Ontario have proceeded to rise by a little less than two per cent day-over-day since early May. 

The bulk of new cases in Ontario appear to be arising in the GTA. In Peel (Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon) in particular, the seven-day rolling average is on an upward trend.

According to Crombie's note, 15 per cent of all COVID-19 cases are in Peel and half of those are in Mississauga. As of May 24, 1,979 total cases have been reported in Mississauga. In nearby Brampton, 1,956 patients have tested positive for the virus. 

There are currently 4,050 confirmed cases in the region, and 244 people have died of the virus. 

Crombie's note says the majority of the new cases recorded over the past month were contracted in the community and did not stem from institutional settings such as long-term care homes, hospitals and shelters. While the rate of hospitalizations has remained steady throughout the province, Crombie's note warns that if individuals spread the virus to multiple people, outbreaks could begin to overwhelm hospitals. 

According to Crombie and Loh, capacity at Trillium Health Partners—which operates two hospitals in Mississauga—currently hovers between 85 to 90 per cent. 

"They are seeing more cases than most hospitals in Ontario. They need to be consistently 85 per cent or less for a sustained period of time. Maintaining personal protective equipment (PPE) for our hospitals remains a challenge," Crombie wrote.

"A spike in cases puts this supply at risk." 

As for what's driving the increase in community spread, Crombie suggested the recent reopening of select stores and businesses could be to blame and asked residents to be patient with the city's more cautious approach. 

"In Mississauga, we are taking a cautious approach. We cannot afford to climb any further up this first wave. The data shows we are going in the wrong direction in Peel. We will re-open, but to do so, we need to keep virus circulation under control. We cannot afford to shut down again, which is exactly what will happen if we re-open too quickly." 

Crombie wrote that the province has said its phased-in reopening process is contingent upon four factors: 

* A steady decline in cases

* Adequate number of daily tests

* Capacity in public health to do contact tracing

* Sufficient capacity in our hospitals

Crombie wrote that while Peel Public Health officials are currently meeting provincial targets for contact tracing, Peel (and the province) is not meeting all four criteria fully—something the Ontario government has been heavily criticized for in recent days.

"Across Canada and across the province, we are not meeting the goals for daily testing," she said, adding that Loh and other doctors are "frustrated" with how the province is progressing in terms of testing and contract tracing. 

Crombie and Loh aren’t the only ones who are worried. Concerns over Ontario and Quebec's low testing rates recently prompted the federal government to step in to provide support and on May 24, Premier Doug Ford told Ontarians that anyone—including those without symptoms—can be tested for COVID-19 at any of the province's testing centres. 

Crombie said the city wants to properly track the numbers and respond quickly if needed.

"Our parks and trails remain open. Nothing has changed on that front," she wrote. 

"We are working with Peel Public Health on opening some of the amenities like fields and courts, but we want to be sure we're ready to do so responsibly. We will take a phased approach."

Emphasizing that Mississauga is home to about 500 parks, Crombie wrote that there's the potential for people to crowd and not practice proper physical distancing.

"That's why we continue to ask for your patience, understanding, and support as we work through this crisis. And it is a crisis. What we're facing in terms of scale and scope has not been faced in a generation. It is not life as usual," she wrote, pleading with people to refrain from gathering and overrunning the city's green spaces. 

"We may be done with COVID, but it is not done with us."

Cover photo courtesy of the City of Mississauga’s official Twitter page

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