‘Confusing’: Toronto doctors voice concern over capacity limits at large venues as COVID-19 cases soar

A number of GTA doctors are expressing concern that the Ontario government may be sending mixed messages by continuing to allow mass gatherings as the province tries to curb a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections.

Several doctors took to Twitter Tuesday night to decry the fact that thousands of people were allowed to attend a Raptors game at Scotiabank Arena even though people are being told to reduce contacts and limit holiday gatherings.

“Strange how Ontario’s approach to COVID is allowing 10,000 people to go to the Raptors game tonight while hospitalizations & ICU admissions are on the rise, LTC facilities are in outbreak and we are seriously considering closing schools,” palliative care physician Dr. Naheed Dosani tweeted.

University Health Network physician Dr. Andrew Boozary called it “a gut punch” to health-care workers while Dr. Amit Arya, another palliative care physician, called it “shocking” that the province would allow “10,000 people to attend the Raptors game tonight while more and more seniors have to be confined to their rooms because of outbreaks in LTC.”

Speaking with CP24, critical care physician Dr. Michael Warner said it is particularly hard to see mass gatherings allowed when a decision around the return of in-person learning is still up in the air.

“It’s not specifically about the Raptors game, it’s about the message it sends to the public. And I think it’s really confusing,” Dr. Michael Warner told CP24 in an interview.

“A week from today, my three kids are supposed to go back to school and so is my wife, who’s a teacher. But we haven’t heard anything from the government about how that could be possible and if it is possible, what’s going to be done to keep teachers, staff and students as safe as possible. And that’s really I think, hard to take.”

Warner said that current government policies don’t account for the fact that COVID-19 spreads through the air.

He acknowledged that the decision about whether to return to in-person learning following the break is a difficult one, but said the current policies do not inspire confidence.

“When I see 10,000 people at the Raptors game, you know with masks below their nose and bandanas over their face, it doesn’t provide me with a lot of happiness with respect to what the government is doing or not doing to make sure Omicron doesn’t spread like wildfire, to make it more likely that schools will be able to open,” he said.

Earlier this month the province capped capacity limits for large sports and entertainment venues at 50 per cent as part of a raft pf measures meant to curb the spread of Omicron.

Scotiabank Arena, which has a regular capacity of 19,800 for a Raptors game and 18,800 for a Maple Leafs game, requires attendees to have had two vaccine doses in order to attend a game. However health officials have said that two doses provide far less protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection with the Omicron variant compared to previous variants.

Booster shots improve protection against the variant, but only around 30 per cent of eligible Toronto residents have been able to get a booster so far.

Food and drink services are also currently prohibited at indoor sporting events, concert venues, theatres and cinemas; casinos, and other venues.

Regular social gatherings are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Toronto’s COVID-19 exposure page lists Toronto Raptors games that took place at home on Dec. 5, 7 and 8 as possible exposure points for COVID-19. The city also lists a number of bars, restaurants and performance spaces as either having outbreaks or having been exposure points.

The true picture of COVID-19 spread in the city is hard to get at the moment, however, as there have been severe bottlenecks in the availability of proper testing

– With files from Bryann Aguilar

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