Ford government mulling 3-week COVID-19 lockdown across southern Ontario, sources say

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to sit down with top hospital officials Friday for an emergency meeting as rising COVID-19 cases put increasing strain on the health-care system in the province.

The meeting comes as public health officials reported 2,290 more cases of the illness this morning with a record-high 68, 246 tests completed. It is the fourth straight day with more than 2,000 new cases in the province. Another 40 deaths of people with the illness were also reported.

In a tweet, Ford said the discussion with hospital leaders will focus on “next steps to break the concerning trends in cases and hospitals in our province.”

As he has often repeated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford added that “everything is on the table when it comes to protecting the health of Ontarians.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, are also slated to attend the 1 p.m. ET meeting.

WATCH | Here’s what Ford said about a potential further lockdown on Thursday:

There are many things to consider before Ontario will tighten its lockdown of the province to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Premier Doug Ford. But he said he will not make a ‘snap’ judgment about which course to take. 1:34

Yesterday, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) called for the province to impose a widespread, 28-day lockdown that would encompass large swathes of southern Ontario. 

In a statement, the OHA said the numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care units are pushing facilities to a breaking point. 

“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals,” the statement read.

This morning, the province reported that there were 877 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals. Of those, 261 are in intensive care and 168 require the use of a ventilator. At the height of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, hospitalizations topped out at 1,043, while ICU admissions peaked at 264, according to the Ministry of Health.

As a result, the OHA said, hospitals are being forced to further postpone procedures and other care that were already put off during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, and front-line workers are being pushed to exhaustion.

The current lockdown orders in Ontario’s two hardest-hit public health units, Toronto and Peel Region, are set to expire on Monday. 

Williams confirmed this week that he has made new recommendations to the government but was clear with reporters that he couldn’t share what those recommendations are.

On CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he’d support the idea of a regional lockdown, noting right now it’s still easy for people to travel from Toronto to less-affected areas, especially during the holiday season.

Tory dismissed the idea of a government-mandated curfew though, suggesting instead that people set their own individual curfews. He continued his key message of: “Stay home.”

7-day average reaches new high

The new cases reported today include 691 in Toronto, 361 in Peel Region, 296 in York Region, 207 in Windsor-Essex and 126 in Hamilton.

The other public health units that saw double-digit increases are:

  • Durham Region: 89
  • Waterloo Region: 84
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 61
  • Halton Region: 57
  • Ottawa: 52
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 51
  • Niagara Region: 47
  • Southwestern: 37
  • Middlesex-London: 30
  • Eastern Ontario: 16
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark: 13
  • Thunder Bay: 11

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

Combined, the additional cases push the seven-day average of new daily cases to 2,089.

The Ministry of Education also reported 133 new cases that are school-related: 111 students and 22 staff members. Some 957 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 19.8 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 22 schools are currently closed because of the illness.

There are now 17,742 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 throughout the province, the most at any point during the pandemic.

They come as Ontario’s network of labs processed 68,246 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. There are another 81, 235 tests in the queue waiting to be completed.

The 40 additional deaths of people with COVID-19 increases the official toll to 4,098.

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