Ontario’s cabinet is being urged to declare another state of emergency as it seeks to address surging numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province, sources say.
Health officials have recommended the following restrictions to cabinet, sources told CBC Toronto on Monday:
- Gathering limits reduced to as few as five people.
- Shorter hours for essential businesses, which would involve earlier closures and later openings.
- Limits on construction activity, but those limits would still allow essential construction to continue. Essential construction would be defined as work on health care and critical infrastructure, as well as residential buildings.
- A requirement that no employees would be allowed in offices unless they are deemed essential.
Those proposals, which have not yet been decided upon, come as Ontario reported another 3,338 cases of COVID-19 and the province’s death toll topped 5,000 on Monday.
Also on Monday, a government source told CBC News that a curfew will not be among restrictions expected to be announced.
The idea of a curfew, similar to the one recently implemented in Quebec, was floated as a possibility for Ontario as infections continue to surge. Premier Doug Ford said last week that revised COVID-19 forecasts show current measures are not doing enough to slow transmission of the novel coronavirus.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer of health, said it is “her understanding” that a curfew was not recommended by the province’s health table.
Sources told CBC News the updated modelling, set to be detailed at an 11:30 a.m. briefing tomorrow, projects the province’s intensive care units will be filled beyond capacity by early February. It also forecasts that Ontario is on track to see up to 6,000 new cases per day by the end of this month.
Yaffe said Monday that “urgent action” is necessary in Ontario — something the premier first started talking about late last week.
“Unfortunately, I’m not able to give you any good news today,” Yaffe said.
“The number of people who have lost their lives remains unbearably high.”
Ford has repeatedly said that “nothing is off the table” but has offered no specifics about what new restrictions could be coming. In a brief statement this morning, Ford said his cabinet will meet later today, with an announcement expected after the modelling has been released publicly.
“We do believe, that based on the data that you will see tomorrow … that we are in a serious situation and serious measures need to be [undertaken],” Yaffe said.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of the federal government’s Immunity Task Force, told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics that Ontario’s only choice now is to further batten down the hatches.
“We have to go back to where we were in the spring,” he told host Vassy Kapelos Monday evening. “Whether we can get compliance at that level … is questionable but right now, much as I hate to endorse it because it’s so hard on people and its hard on people differentially, we’re going to have to really try to shut things down to the greatest extent possible in the provinces like Ontario that are hard hit.”
Naylor says the problem was that in the fall Ontario let the case counts get too high, and tracking and tracing failed. The only way to get a grip on the situation now is to keep kids out of school, non-essential businesses closed and contact between people to a minimum.
“I don’t see any way around some really tough measures right now,” he said.
WATCH | Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of the federal government’s Immunity Task Force, speaks to Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos:
The newest confirmed cases include 931 in Toronto, 531 in Peel Region, 241 in York Region, 168 in Niagara Region and 165 in Waterloo Region.
Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were:
- Ottawa: 159
- Hamilton: 146
- Durham Region: 143
- Middlesex-London: 141
- Windsor-Essex: 118
- Lambton: 90
- Simcoe-Muskoka: 84
- Halton Region: 81
- Southwestern: 81
- Eastern Ontario: 69
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 56
- Huron-Perth: 27
- Chatham-Kent: 21
- Brant County: 14
- Sudbury: 11
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’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 bring the seven-day average of new daily cases to a record high 3,555.
There are now 30,632 confirmed, actives cases of COVID-19 provincewide.
The number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals climbed to 1,563, 80 more admissions than yesterday. Of those, 387 are being treated in intensive care and 268 require a ventilator to breathe, a new pandemic high in the province.
Notably, Critical Care Services Ontario, which produces an internal report on ICU admissions and capacity each morning, puts Ontario’s current ICU figure at 409, according to Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 46,403 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 7.7 per cent. Another 28,774 tests are in the queue to be completed.
The 29 additional deaths in today’s update bring Ontario’s official toll to 5,012. The first COVID-19-linked death was reported on March 19, 2020.
The province says it administered 8,859 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday. As of 8 p.m. Sunday, a total of 122,105 doses have been given in Ontario.
Meanwhile, elementary and secondary school students across northern Ontario returned to in-class learning this morning.
The northern portion of the province is allowed to return to school buildings as positivity rates for COVID-19 in that region are relatively low.
All students began their winter term with online learning this month and the government announced last week that students in southern Ontario will continue attending classes remotely until at least Jan. 25.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Saturday that the list of essential workers eligible for emergency child care would be expanded.
It now includes RCMP officers, custodial and clerical education workers and postal staff.
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