Toronto staff made to sign non-disclosure agreement to be part of Ontario's COVID-19 health table

·3 min read

The Toronto Board of Health has unanimously approved a motion calling on the provincial government to make public all recommendations received from its COVID-19 advisory table, its chair says.

The move comes just as it was revealed at a board of health meeting Monday that Toronto Public Health staff were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to participate at the province's public health measures table.

"Once again, we're asking people to make hard sacrifices in order to control the surge in new COVID-19 cases. Full transparency and accountability are more important than ever in order to maintain public confidence and public trust. In the midst of an emergency, complete transparency is required," Coun. Joe Cressy, the board's chair, said in a news release Monday.

Recommendations made to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams and cabinet by the provincial advisory tables, including the public health measures table, is currently kept confidential by the province, the news release says.

CBC News reached out to the province for an explanation as to why a non-disclosure agreement was required. A provincial spokesperson did not directly answer the question in an email response.

"The terms of reference of the Public Health Measures Table allow for candid discussions that ultimately lead to guidance and advice being provided to the Chief Medical Officer of Health," spokesperson David Jensen said. "Ultimately a formal recommendation is made by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and is reviewed and a decision is made by Cabinet."

At the province's daily press conference Monday, Premier Doug Ford was also asked about the issue. Ford said his government has shown "unprecedented transparency" — but did not explain why the non-disclosure agreement was necessary.

"I'll continue being transparent on anything I know," Ford said.

"I'm going to continue coming out here every day informing the people of Ontario."

In a tweet posted Monday morning, Coun. Gord Perks called the situation "unbelievable.

"I just learned [that] in order to participate in the Ontario public health measures table, Toronto Public Health staff had to sign an NDA. Why the secrecy?" he asked.

538 new cases Monday

During the city's news conference Monday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the city recorded 538 new cases today. The city's numbers are usually more up to date than those seen in provincial data.

There are also 176 people in hospital, de Villa said, with 42 people in intensive care.

"The case counts in Toronto are alarming," she said.

De Villa also said that in the face of high case counts, it's fair for people to question whether the "modified Stage 2" restrictions enacted in Toronto have actually made any difference.

"I believe they did," she said, adding that case rates have dropped in certain neighbourhoods, especially in areas of downtown Toronto with high density of bars and restaurants. Without those measures, the case counts "would have been much worse," de Villa said.

Also on Monday, the board approved recommendations to call on the provincial and federal governments to boost financial supports for communities "disproportionately" impacted by COVID-19, as well as guaranteeing paid sick days for all workers, and providing more support for businesses and staff directly affected by public health restrictions.

New data released by Toronto Public Health on Monday continues to show higher rates of COVID-19 in parts of the city's northwest corner.

For the week of Oct. 25, Black Creek had a positivity rate of 14 per cent and Rustic, 12.4 per cent. Thorncliffe Park in the city's east end had a positivty rate of 11.8 per cent.

The data also showed a growing spike among those 80 years of age and above since the virus resurged in late summer.