End of March 2021
THE LONE WOLF
If you speak to most Drs. in and around the GTA, including Toronto and Peel region (these two regions were one of the last two, to come out of lockdown) most will say the city should stay in the Grey zone with limited openings and not in the current Red Zone. Very few if any Drs. will speak on the record of their feelings when it comes to Covid restrictions.
Dr. Karim Kurji, who is York Regions’ medical officer of health (York Region moved out of the Grey Zone two weeks before Toronto and Peel), has become the lone wolf!
He recently said, at the beginning of the pandemic, when we didn’t know much better, I think lockdowns were the way to go. Now he is saying “Not anymore”. We have learned. “I think we need to use targeted approaches to control the spread of the virus”.
So while Toronto and Peel Region’s public health doctors are proposing an amended Grey zone with limited openings, their York counterpart is asking Premier Doug Ford to keep York in the red zone to allow businesses to operate modestly.
“Let us navigate it the way we like to navigate it” and that means no more lockdowns.
This comes at a time when some medical professionals are predicting a third wave of Covid-19. In fact, Dr. Peter Juni, director of the Ontario Covid-19 Science Advisory Table, wants the entire Golden Horseshoe locked down. Toronto’s Dr. Eileen de Villa and Peel Regions’ Dr. Lawrence Loh are not ready for indoor dining or gyms and malls reopening.
Kurji, who doesn’t predict the third wave, sees it differently.
“I don’t think York Region should have the emergency brake applied to it. I think we are doing fine with respect to our management of it”.
York has seen modest increases last week with respect to the number of positive cases but has also seen many receive vaccinations. Kurji feels a holistic approach is needed.
“Lockdowns are very blunt instruments. They don’t necessarily connect with the right levers of the community where the problems are. There are many adverse effects of the lockdowns”.
Eating and sleeping disorders, more substance and alcohol abuse, increased depression, anxiety and suicides are part of any data considered. Financial issues and income are also part of health considerations.
“We have to support our businesses. We have not seen a Covid spread in malls or restaurants.”
So shutting them completely down doesn’t make much sense nor should they be worried if someone from Toronto crosses Steeles Ave to eat in a York restaurant permitted to seat 10 customers.
“I really don’t mind because, in the grand scheme of things, the Covid numbers are about the same. When our businesses are taking correct precautions, we expect everybody to be kept safe. When an area is showing more virus transmission, that area needs to be targeted with stronger measures as opposed to closing areas not showing any issues.”
He is also proposing the province allow some of the next vaccine shipment to be diverted and be administered to some in the 29-34 year old and 45-54 year old range to try to flatten hot spots of variant spread in younger populations in parts of Vaughan and Markham.
Kurji feels public officials have to offer not just fear but hope too. Going to the mall, gym or place of worship is important to overall health.
Lockdowns are affecting lives in a negative way. The red zone gives people a little breathing space.
Speaking just for York Region and its 1.2 million residents, Kurji says breaking ranks with other GTA doctors is not controversial but simply a matter of doing his job.
Kurji said he certainly has debated privately with Dr. Juni (director of the Ontario Covid-19 Science Advisory Table) and we weren’t able to convince each other however he has been able to convince Premier Ford to keep York region out of the lockdowns plaguing Peel Region and Toronto.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that more people like Dr. Karim Kurji can and will continue to be heard!
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