By: Mike Anderson

With the province set to impose lockdown measures on Friday to curb the rising number of COVID-19 infections in hot spot regions like Toronto, Peel and York Region, one region is pushing back.

York Region Chair and CEO Wayne Emmerson and York Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karim Kurji issued a joint letter to Premier Doug Ford on November 19 urging him to keep York Region in the current Red-Control zone and not move the region into the Lockdown zone.

Meanwhile, York Region Public Health is reporting 180 new cases on November 19, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,111. The positivity rating is also on the rise — and now stands at 6 per cent, up from 5 per cent during the last reporting period.

While both officials acknowledge that “York Region’s daily cases of COVID-19 and positivity rates have been high,” they argue the region’s existing control measures are working and allowing York Region to “adequately balance public health with economic interests.”

“Regular public health inspections indicate the majority of our businesses continue to comply with current Red-Control zone public health measures. As well, our public demonstrates exceptionally high levels of compliance with measures such as wearing masks within public spaces,” the letter to Premier Ford reads.

“At the same time, York Region’s three local hospitals have indicated they are sufficiently managing the COVID-19 workload and have not seen evidence of capacity strains that would warrant further lockdown measures.”

The letter also states that Public Health is doing a good job of contact tracing and is “currently reaching virtually 100% of our positive cases on the day reports are received.”

As well, outbreaks in YRDSB schools, according to the letter, “continue to be manageable,” and the region is “currently seeing a decline in workplace outbreaks across our cities and towns.”

The letter also underlines York Region’s effort to increase enforcement, targeting businesses where there has been a lack of physical distancing.

“York Region has also committed to increase enforcement activities with York Regional Police and our municipal bylaw partners in areas where we have issues with overcrowding and lack of physical distancing, including malls, big box outlets, grocery stores and banquet halls. We want to work with your colleagues in the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Provincial Police on enforcement. 

As has been implemented for restaurants and bars, we support the province’s consideration of additional measures to ensure proper distancing and further measures are put in place to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in establishments such as malls, large outlets and banquet halls.”

The Premier’s announcement on further restrictions for regional COVID-19 hot spots is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park.

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