Skip to content

Dr. Chirico 'not in favour' of loosening restrictions

'Locally, we're seeing increasing outbreaks in congregate settings, our health care workers are exhausted — they've been pushed to the limit — and they've been doing this for a long time'
2021 07 05 Jim Chirico Doug Ford (Campaigne)
Dr. Jim Chirico speaks with Premier Doug Ford in this July 2021 file photo.

Speaking Thursday morning — before Premier Doug Ford announced plans to ease public health restrictions gradually through February — the local medical officer of health made it clear he was not ready to endorse such steps.

Speaking during the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit's bi-weekly media availability and without the details of the Ford government's intentions, Dr. Jim Chirico declared, "In general, I am not in favour of loosening restrictions at this time."

As Chirico has consistently done throughout the pandemic response, he expressed concern the health care system would become overwhelmed, this time due to the Omicron variant.

"It is still under pressure," he noted. "This week, in Ontario, we've seen the hospital occupancy increase by 20 per cent. ICU occupancy has increased by 84 and there are over 800 patients that are being ventilated for COVID-related and non-COVID-related issues."

Chirico added, as hospitalizations remain high and capacity decreases, there are potential negative impacts for patients waiting for surgical procedures and treatments. "Hospital beds are at a premium and, tragically, we've seen an increase in the number of deaths in the local area."

And, he stated absenteeism rates are up in many sectors among health care workers and hospital beds are at a premium.

"Locally, we're seeing increasing outbreaks in congregate settings, our health care workers are exhausted — they've been pushed to the limit — and they've been doing this for a long time," Chirico said.

Later Thursday, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore supported the government's plan to begin the gradual reopening process, Jan. 31, joining Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott for the announcement. Ford presented a phased approach to reopening, with each step lasting at least 21 days.

See also: WATCH: Premier announces reopening plan

"The evidence tells us that the measures we put in place to blunt transmission of Omicron are working," said Ford. "We can be confident that the worst is behind us and that we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures. While February will continue to present its own challenges, given current trends these are challenges we are confident we can manage."

Earlier, Chirico alluded to previous times during the pandemic that decisions had to be made to pause or revert back in the reopening steps.

"We need to be very mindful of our past experience and move slowly and cautiously, especially with the recent return to school," he said. 

Chirico worried that loosening restrictions would naturally lead to increased contact and the potential spread of the virus. "Nobody wants to have to revert back from loosening restrictions — we've seen it happen in the past — it's too disruptive."