The organization representing Ontario doctors calls on the government to maintain certain public health measures until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is found.
When the province began the reopening process after months of locking due to the pandemic, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) urged caution, saying that until vaccines were available, there would always be a risk of a surge in COVID-19 patients.
“When Ontario starts planning to reopen, consideration must be given to the fact that jobs and significant losses have brought us to this point of readiness and ongoing efforts and actions are needed for a safe transition to a ‘new normal’,” the OMA said in a report published on Friday.
“What we know from the experience of other countries and viral biology is that we must not be in a hurry. We cannot immediately return – by default – to normal before. Instead, we must make the transition to a “new normal” so that we can control our ability to lift and impose restrictions as needed and avoid potential spikes. “
Given the reopening, the OMA recommends that the following five public health steps remain until treatment for this disease is found.
The first recommendation is that people should continue to use “personal protection measures,” which include physical distance, washing hands and wearing masks in public. The association also recommends that the workplace take turns shifting and allowing employees to work with home if possible.
To reopen, the OMA said the province must also have a strong understanding of “the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population” through proper testing. This includes the capacity to provide and analyze tests for anyone with symptoms of the disease, as well as close contacts, important workers and vulnerable populations.
Temperature checks, OMA said, are not an adequate measure of COVID-19 status.
“The temperature check only shows those who have symptoms and especially symptoms of fever, thus ignoring those who are asymptomatic or have other symptoms,” the report said.
In addition to testing, OMA calls for continued contact tracking of all cases to find and isolate as many close contacts as possible positive patients. To do this, the association said the province might have to employ more trackers or use technology to help support interviews.
OMA wants a “nuanced approach” when it comes to the decision to reopen schools and child care centers. The report says that parents who choose not to return their children to school must be given alternatives.
“Although most children generally have a lower risk of developing severe viral symptoms, some children who have an underlying health condition, as well as some teachers and staff, may be at higher risk. Parents are also at high risk if their children are infected and bring the disease home. “
Schools and most childcare centers in Ontario were closed in mid-March. The decision whether they will reopen for the remainder of the academic year is expected early next week.
Finally, to ensure that everyone works together with public health measures, the OMA says that the government must provide “simple, timely, effective, evidence-based and transparent” communication with the public.
OMA represents more than 43,000 doctors, residents, medical students, and retired doctors.