Gyms? Bars? Backyards? Why we don’t know more about where COVID-19 is spreading in Ontario

Gyms? Bars? Backyards? Why we don't know more about where COVID-19 is spreading in Ontario

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Most of the insight that we gain is basically through press conferences or press briefings, where we hear off the cuff remarks about… Right now it feels very black boxy

The provincial government hasn’t changed its guidance on “social circles” since introducing the concept in June. But local health officials have largely stopped talking about the idea.

“I don’t think the social circle concept has worked out, when I look at what we’re seeing in people’s behaviour, where one circle of 10 becomes a different circle of 10 overlapping on different days of the week,” said Etches. “The concept was that you need to limit your contacts. It can’t be different people all the time.”

In Peel, the data on how just badly the social circles idea has broken down is particularly stark. “We used to have people who were reporting just five close contacts when we were doing contact tracing,” Loh said. “They’re now reporting an average of 25 to 30 contacts.” That’s just an average, too. “We know there’s some people that are lower than that, and there’s some people that are way higher,” Loh said.

For Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, the question of where people are getting COVID is almost irrelevant. “As it turns out, COVID-19 doesn’t come from a place,” she said. “It comes from one person to the next, right? That’s how the virus spreads.”

De Villa thinks ordinary Ontarians have more than enough information right now to do what’s right. “Fundamentally COVID-19 is about the behaviours that people engage in,” she said. “And that’s why you’ll hear me say time and time again, please limit your contact with people that you don’t live with.”

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Still, others believe that more information would help. Kiran, for one, would like to see aggregated data published that shows where the virus is spreading — whether it’s in gyms, bars, private gatherings, churches or offices. “I would say in general, in a pandemic,” she said, “I think we should be weighing on the side of transparency.”

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