#onpoli newsletter: The pandemic, three months in

Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath take stock of where things stand in Ontario with COVID-19
By Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath - Published on Jun 16, 2020
Premier Ford arrives for a daily press briefing at Queens Park (Rene Johnston/CP)

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Hello, #onpoli people: 

Three months after Ontario’s initial lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, hosts Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath discuss where we’ve been and what comes next.

Not all bad news

John Michael McGrath: This week marks the three-month point in Ontario’s experience of the pandemic. Thousands have died, tens of thousands have been made sick, and the entire provincial economy has been devastated. In the last two weeks we’ve seen a partial return to normalcy: as of Friday, all of the public health regions in the province except for Toronto, Peel Region, and Windsor-Essex are allowed to enter Stage 2 — many businesses can start to see customers again while adhering to new public health regulations. Those of us still stuck in Stage 1 can at least take solace in the fact that this is all possible because even in our own cities, the number of daily new cases is falling and the number of recovered patients is growing. There’s no security until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, but there’s been more good news lately than bad — and that’s something.

Steve Paikin: You can really see it at Premier Doug Ford’s daily briefings. A couple of weeks ago he was downtrodden, grim — never smiled. These days he walks in and, when reporters ask how he’s doing, he’ll respond “Just great!” or some such thing. He even cracked a joke Monday with a reporter from Hamilton about how glad that reporter must be to see his region now entering Stage 2. Having said that, Ontario just passed another unenviable milestone: 2,500 deaths due to COVID-19.

But what's next? 

Illustration of a bar graph with peaks and valleys
(iStock/Bill Oxford)

John Michael: Folks may not remember now, but the government’s most optimistic projection back in April was that we might see 3,000 deaths over the full course of the pandemic — and we aren’t at the end of this thing, yet. It’s basically an impossible question to answer right now, but a lot of doctors are asking, “What’s next?” Most people I’ve spoken with expect some kind of second wave to the pandemic in the fall or winter, when people start congregating indoors again and flu season starts. If there isn’t a vaccine by then — and it would take a pretty heroic effort to have one ready — then we could see another wave of the disease. As I wrote for TVO.org, not everyone is sure that our hospitals are ready for another surge. We’ve managed to contain the virus as much as we have using some extraordinarily costly measures, and it’s hard to imagine anyone in elected office (provincially or federally) having the stomach for another round of this.

Steve: Before that second wave happens, though, we’ve still got the summer to experience. We know, thanks to long miserable winters, that Ontarians love to enjoy their short summers. And given that the border with the U.S. is likely to remain closed, this may be the perfect summer, if people can, to see their own province as never before. We learned yesterday that Tourism, Culture, and Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod is going to travel the province, encouraging people to spend their money here at home. She’s starting this Friday in the newly reopened Niagara Region, specifically at Niagara Falls, which, if you can imagine, has sustained an unemployment rate of north of 90 per cent during this pandemic.  Tourism has taken an awful $20 billion hit in Ontario  — imagine how many livelihoods that affects.  Since this won’t be the summer to see Europe or the U.S., maybe a silver lining of this pandemic is that it nudges us to seek out places in  our own beautiful province that we’ve never seen before.

John Michael: I know I’d definitely like to take advantage of what summer we do get to see some new parts of the province. Still, I won’t be joining the mob of “plague-ridden Toronto zombies” (as some wags on Twitter have called us) heading for cottage country just yet.

Just a reminder...

Want to know more? Check out the latest episode of #onpoli for more on Ontario's latest COVID-19 developments.

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