If you wanted to design a pandemic reopening plan that didn’t do much actual reopening, it would look exactly like the steaming mess Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his skilled team of advisers deposited on long-suffering Ontarians Thursday.
Ford’s so called “Roadmap to Reopen” describes an epic journey that doesn’t even begin in any significant way until June 14. Then there will be limited retail and some additional outdoor activity (although golf courses and tennis courts can start earlier, reopening this long weekend) .
At a minimum, it will take an additional 42 days to reach stage three of Ford’s plan, which is still not a full reopening. People have sailed around the world in less time.
Ford repeatedly called his plan “cautious.” No kidding. He thinks it won’t be safe to get a haircut until 70 per cent of Ontarians have received one vaccination and 20 per cent have had two.
While the new plan is supposed to give clear guidance on what happens when, it does anything but. At first glance, it looks like a plan where reopenings are driven by vaccination numbers, as they should be. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The first stage of the plan is supposed to be triggered when 60 per cent of adults have received one dose, a number that will probably be reached by the end of this week. And yet, nothing will happen until June 14 because the government and its fretting health advisers are still worried about the number of cases, the number of people in hospital and the number in ICUs.
All those numbers have been going down, and reason would suggest that they will continue to go down as vaccination numbers rise. These are numbers that reflect what was happening in Ontario weeks ago, not what will happen in the next few weeks. This is a plan that looks backward, not forward. To make it worse, the reopening plan provides no specific thresholds for any of those health indicators, making the plan’s timeline completely unpredictable.
The best the science advisers could come up with justify their excessive caution is that maybe there will be some new, unknown variant that will be resistant to vaccines. It hasn’t happened yet, but hey, let’s keep the province shut down just in case.
Much of the muddy thinking behind this plan comes back to Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health. Williams is the sort of chap who would wear a raincoat and carry an umbrella on a sunny day. His favourite phrase is “out of an abundance of caution.”
Williams’s performance Thursday was typically eccentric and disconcerting. He said vaccines aren’t effective until “three or four or five weeks” after they’re given. The generally accepted number is two weeks. Williams also said Ontario could hit a 70-per-cent one-dose vaccination rate by early June, a number that is often considered the threshold for herd immunity. But Williams says he prefers waiting until 70 per cent of Ontarians have two doses. No one else is talking about that as the necessary reopening number.