Why is Ontario still locked down?

Jun 22nd, 2020

By John Carpay, The Post Millennial

It appears that the Ontario Government has not considered COVID-19 within its global and historical context. The 1957-58 “Asian flu” and the 1968-69 “Hong Kong flu” each claimed one million lives around the world when world population was less than half of what it is today. In more average years, the flu sadly takes between 291,000 and 646,000 lives, most of them vulnerable elderly people who are already sick with one or more serious health conditions.

As of June 18, 2020, COVID-19 had apparently killed 456,000 people around the world although this number includes people who died of other causes while also having this virus. While very tragic, the number of deaths with COVID-19 is not different from what has happened in many other years, and is within the range of the annual flu. Yet the Ontario Government’s lockdown measures are based on the notion that COVID-19 is an unusually deadly killer that everyone should be very, very worried about. This notion was already disproven many weeks ago, so why has the lockdown not been lifted entirely?

When the Ontario Government closed schools and post-secondary institutions in mid- March, the Office of the Premier stated that “…these measures we are putting in place will ensure that we continue to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario and thereby protect children and families across the province.” University of Toronto professor Dr. Dionne Aleman stated that “Younger people should not be comforted by statistics that show they are less likely to end up in hospital or die because of COVID-19. It is like rolling a die. It might be unlikely that if I roll the die that the number one pops up, but that doesn’t mean that it is never going to happen”

If the statistical probability of a young person being hospitalized or dying were really “like rolling a one on a die”, we would expect a one-in-six probability that any young person in Ontario would die from COVID-19 or suffer serious harm from it. But in fact, Public Health Ontario has stated there is only an approximate 1/108 chance that any person aged 0-39 who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be hospitalized, with chance of death far less than that. If we’re looking at all people aged 0-39 in Ontario, not just those aged 0-39 who have tested positive for COVID-19, then there is about a 1/30,000 chance that any person aged 0-39 would be hospitalized. So much for “rolling the dice.”

In Ontario and around the world, more than two thirds of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in persons age 80 and higher, and more than 90% amongst those 60 and older. COVID-19 poses no threat to children, youth or healthy adults. Did the Ontario Government consider the harmful social and learning impacts of school closures on students, and on parents who suddenly acquired new responsibilities to care for their children during routine workday hours?

The Ontario Government’s lockdown measures obviously violate the Charter freedoms of Ontarians to move, travel, assemble, associate, and worship. The daily routines of millions of Ontarians, and their ability to earn a living to support themselves and their loved ones, were affected when the most significant centres of the public sphere were ordered to close. And tens of thousands of Ontarians were affected when hospitals were made available to COVID-19 patients only. It will be months or even years before we know the full death toll of the decision to cancel tens of thousand of medically necessary surgeries, after counting all the cardiac patients who died while waiting for heart surgery, and after counting additional cancer deaths caused by lack of timely diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile, hospitals have not been operating at anything approaching full capacity, even when the “curve” was already flat.

The descriptor “unprecedented” has been inappropriately applied to some features of COVID-19, yet it certainly applies to the rapid decline in economic performance across many sectors and indicators, in Ontario and across Canada. In Ontario in April there were 1,092,00 fewer jobs than in February, with unemployment more than doubling from 5.5% to 11.3%. Of those who did not lose their jobs outright, most have been forced to work – and earn—much less. Unemployment, poverty and social isolation predictably lead to increases in anxiety, depression, mental illness, alcoholism, drug overdoses, family violence and suicide. Sustained financial stress may even lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and mental health conditions.

Health care requires money, and first-rate, excellent health care requires a lot of it. A crippled economy that is riddled with high rates of unemployment, bankruptcies, insolvencies and other business failures will not generate enough money for good health care, resulting in Canadians dying prematurely because of inadequate or inferior health care. A strong and prosperous economy is the only way to generate sufficient wealth to pay for good health care. We don’t need to choose between the economy and saving lives; we choose both or we choose neither.

It’s true that houses of worship can now operate at 30% capacity, provided that they ban singing and observe two-metre social distancing (unless hosting an anti-racism rally, in which case social distancing is not required). And restaurants with large enough patios to spread patrons two metres apart can also open, if it makes any financial sense to do so. But this is not exactly what one would describe as “reopened.”

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires the Ontario Government to answer some crucial questions: in June of 2020, why should schools, universities, churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues, and many businesses and recreational facilities, remain even partially closed? Are strict and costly conditions for opening based on facts and evidence? Or are they based on speculation and unfounded fear? When will the Ontario Government stop violating Charter freedoms and destroying livelihoods by imposing and enforcing lockdown measures that appear to have caused more harm than good?