Ontario Premier Doug Ford is poised to announce Friday whether Toronto, Peel Region and York Region will face stricter COVID-19 measures — or even a lockdown — as the count of new coronavirus cases continues its upward climb.
Ford’s cabinet meets each Friday to consider recommendations from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams on changing the colour-coded restriction levels for each public health unit.
- Ford is making the announcement at a news conference beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park. You can watch it live in the video above or in this story.
As the week unfolded, Ford sent clear signals that stronger measures are looming for the three hardest-hit regions, all of which are currently in the red zone, one step short of lockdown.
“We’re looking at lockdown, if this continues, in Peel and Toronto and York,” Ford said Wednesday. “I keep seeing the numbers climb. We have to stop this.”
“We have some difficult but necessary decisions to make,” Ford said during his daily COVID-19 briefing Thursday. “Tomorrow, our government will release further public health restrictions. As it’s looking, these measures, they will have to be tough in the hardest-hit areas.”
Peel is by far the hardest hit region in the province, currently seeing 195 new cases weekly per 100,000 population — nearly five times higher than the province’s threshold of 40 for red-zone restrictions.
Toronto (with 112 new cases weekly per 100,000 population) and York Region (with 91) have also seen steady growth in COVID-19 infections since early September, despite the imposition of stricter pandemic measures along the way.
The province has not specified the infection rate threshold that would trigger a lockdown, nor has it stated exactly what would get locked down. When asked Thursday to describe the scale of the restrictions being considered, both Ford and Williams declined to reveal any specifics.
“As always, what we’re trying to do is to make sure we keep our numbers plateauing and coming down, and especially in the areas of rapid growth,” said Williams.
While Ford has been using the L-word, it’s far from certain that Peel, Toronto, and York will face the kind of lockdown Ontario ordered in March — with schools and all but essential businesses closed.
All the signs from Ford suggest he won’t be announcing plans to close schools in the hot zones.
“I’ve heard from numerous, numerous doctors, not to mention our health table [of medical advisers], that the safest place for our children right now is actually in the schools,” Ford said Thursday.
He also hinted that tackling transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces and social gatherings would be preferable to ordering a lockdown.
“We can’t afford to have workplaces that are unsafe or host large gatherings or parties because this virus spreads like wildfire,” said Ford. “It hurts your customers, it hurts your workers, and it hurts your community.”
Local officials in the hardest-hit areas have voiced support for stricter measures, but have stopped short of calling for a full-scale lockdown.
“I do think further closures and restrictions are warranted at this time,” Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh told CBC News Network on Thursday.
Loh said he supports short-term measures that would “reduce the number of contacts and interactions” among people in the region, which includes the cities of Mississauga and Brampton.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is looking to the province to strengthen prevention measures.
“I support doing everything we can, based on public health advice, to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our city,” Tory said Wednesday.
York’s medical officer of health and with the regional municipality’s chair wrote to Ford on Thursday urging him not to impose a lockdown on the region, which includes Markham, Vaughan and other cities north of Toronto.
“We are confident we can continue to protect the health and well-being of residents and bring our case numbers down,” said the joint letter from Dr. Karim Kurji and Wayne Emmerson.
The letter committed to increased enforcement “in areas where we have issues with overcrowding and lack of physical distancing, including malls, big box outlets, grocery stores and banquet halls.”
All this comes with Ontario reporting hospitalization and death rates from COVID-19 higher than at anytime since June.
An internal report from Critical Care Services Ontario, obtained by CBC Toronto on Thursday, shows 150 patients with COVID-19 in hospital intensive care units. Health officials have said scheduled surgeries and procedures will likely need to be cancelled to keep space available in the ICUs once the number of COVID-19 patients exceeds 150.
So far this month, 307 people with COVID-19 have died, according to provincial figures.
If the province does resort to a form of lockdown, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the government to provide financial support to small businesses for costs such as rent and payroll.
She’s also renewed her call for a legislated minimum number of paid sick days for all Ontario workers, a measure that Ford’s government scrapped in 2018, shortly after taking power.
Changes could also be announced Friday to the restriction levels in other public health units around Ontario, depending on whether their infection rates have risen or fallen.
- The Region of Waterloo, currently under orange zone restrictions, could end up in the red zone as its weekly infection rate per 100,000 residents has reached 63, according to the latest figures from Public Health Ontario.
- Durham Region, also in orange, is showing a weekly infection rate approaching 53, which exceeds the threshold for the red zone.
- Among the seven public health units currently under yellow zone restrictions, the highest infection rate is in Huron-Perth (43), making it the most likely candidate for stricter measures.
Canada adds 4,889 new coronavirus infections as global cases near 60 million – Global News
A total of 2,218 people in Canada remain hospitalized after contracting the respiratory illness, while 273,391 have recovered after becoming sick.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government has secured a deal with Eli Lilly to secure up to 26,000 doses of the pharmaceutical company’s therapeutic drug to treat COVID-19 patients.
“To keep Canadians safe, we need access to as many potential vaccines and treatments as possible,” he said.
Trudeau added that Canada will have the option to purchase thousands more doses.
The prime minister also said Canada has signed “strong contracts” with various vaccine companies, adding that the government is “working closely with allies on ensuring that there is a free flow of delivery of contracts.”
Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says implementation of rapid tests up to provinces, territories
Trudeau said the leaders of the G20 nations discussed equitable access to a potential COVID-19 vaccine during the virtual summit last weekend.
“It’s really important to ensure that everyone gets access to vaccines around the world because no one place gets through COVID-19 until all places are done with COVID-19,” he said.
New cases in the provinces
In Ontario, 1,009 new cases were detected on Wednesday. The province also saw 14 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 3,519.
Meanwhile, Quebec saw 1,124 new infections and 45 new deaths, pushing the total case count and death toll to 134,330 and 6,887, respectively.
Between Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 646 new infections were reported.
Manitoba saw 471 new cases and 12 new deaths, while Saskatchewan added 175 new COVID-19 infections.
However, health officials said no one else had died.
In Atlantic Canada, 44 new coronavirus infections were reported.
Nova Scotia added a record 37 new cases, while New Brunswick saw five new infections.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw two new cases, while Prince Edward Island did not report any new infections.
None of the Maritime provinces reported any new fatalities related to the respiratory illness.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency on Wednesday, as 1,115 new cases and 16 additional deaths were reported.
The province is implementing more stringent measures for three weeks in order to stem the spread of the virus, including banning indoor social gatherings and expanding the holiday school break.
Meanwhile, British Columbia added 941 new COVID-19 infections, marking a new daily record.
Health officials in the province also said 10 more people have died.
Cases rise in Nunavut
Ten new cases were detected in Nunavut on Wednesday, but health officials said no one else has died.
The new cases push the territory’s total case load to 144. So far, only two of those cases are considered to be recovered.
Neither the Yukon or Northwest Territories saw a new case or death related to the virus on Wednesday.
Global cases near 60 million
The total number of novel coronavirus infections around the world hovered below 60 million on Wednesday.
By 6 p.m. ET, there were a total of 59,597,658 confirmed cases of the virus globally, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
So far, the virus has killed 259,372 Americans.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ford differentiates between Ontarians holding private gatherings and establishments defying COVID-19 rules – CBC.ca
Premier Doug Ford drew a distinction between Ontarians flouting public health measures through private gatherings and establishments that openly defy the province’s COVID-19 rules Tuesday.
The remarks came in response to questions about at Toronto barbeque restaurant owner publicly vowing to keep his doors open amid the province’s lockdown for the city.
“They have to follow the rules. There can’t be rules for one group and not another,” he said at a news conference Tuesday, less forcefully than in other instances where the premier has come out swinging against people throwing large parties or weddings, for example.
“When it comes to private parties, that’s a different ball of wax,” Ford said. “I’m not going to get up here and start pounding the small business owner when the guy’s holding on by his finger nails. I differentiate between someone at home being reckless and having 100 people over and partying and renting a public storage place … that’s reckless.
“I don’t condone that he opened up but I feel terrible. My heart breaks for these guys … these business-owners, believe me. “But please, in saying all that, you’ve got to follow the protocols and guidelines.”
WATCH | Ford comments on Toronto BBQ restaurant vowing to stay open during COVID-19 lockdown:
The restaurant was eventually ordered to shut down by the City of Toronto after bylaw officers, public health inspectors and police were called to the site, city officials said in a statement.
Rapid testing begins, auditor general set to release report
The province also announced Tuesday that it has begun deploying rapid testing in long-term care homes, rural and remote areas — something the premier called a “gamechanger.”
The rapid tests, which can produce results in minutes rather than days, have been sent to 36 long-term care homes and 27 retirement homes, as well as some hospitals.
The testing kits are earmarked for a total of 22 hospitals, including two that are already using them, as well as remote
communities and some outbreak areas in hot-spot regions, the government said.
Some will also be sent to corporations such as Air Canada and Ontario Power Generation, while others will be used over several months in a pilot project involving private, public and non-profit sector employers to gauge the value of antigen testing on asymptomatic workers, the province said.
Ottawa began shipping the testing kits to the provinces late last month, but figuring out how to best put them to use has taken some time, and most jurisdictions are also verifying the results of rapid tests with a lab-based test.
The “gold-standard” COVID-19 tests need to be processed in a lab, which can take at least a day. Rapid tests can yield results right where the patient is tested but are generally considered less reliable than lab-based tests.
One type of rapid test looks for the genetic material of the novel coronavirus, as does the traditional lab version. The other looks for the specific markers the virus leaves on the outside of a cell, known as antigens.
Ford said the province will continue to deploy the 98,000 ID Now tests and 1.2 million Panbio tests it has received from the federal government in the coming weeks. Health Minister Christine Elliott says another 1.5 million Panbio tests are expected to arrive in Ontario next month.
The announcement comes as a data error resulted in an artificially low daily total of 1,009 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.
It also comes just one day before the province’s auditor general is set to issue a three-part report on the province’s pandemic emergency preparedness and its response to COVID-19, including lab testing, case management and contact tracing.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said that yesterday’s figure of 1,589 cases (which appeared to be a record high) inadvertently included eight-and-a-half extra hours worth of data from Nov. 22, meaning the total count was inflated. Today’s number adjusts for the mistake.
The new cases include 497 in Toronto, 175 in Peel Region and 118 in York Region. The seven-day average now sits at 1,395.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Waterloo Region: 40
- Windsor: 31
- Simcoe Muskoka: 25
- Ottawa: 19
- Niagara Region: 19
- Durham Region: 16
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 16
- Hamilton: 10
- Thunder Bay: 14
[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.]
Testing falls to about half of capacity
Today’s additional cases include 270 that are school-related: 223 students and 47 staff. The Ministry of Education said in a statement that the figure is not a one-day increase. Rather it reflects cases identified in schools from 2 p.m. last Friday to 2 p.m. yesterday, and also some others that were not reported Friday because of professional learning days in some boards, including the Toronto public and Catholic boards.
There are currently 703 publicly-funded schools in Ontario, or about 14.6 per cent, with at least one reported instance of COVID-19. Four schools are closed due to the illness, including one in Windsor with 39 cases, the largest school-related outbreak in the province.
There are now 12,917 confirmed, active cases of the illness provincewide, a slight drop from yesterday as 1,082 cases were marked resolved today.
The further infections in today’s update come as Ontario’s network of labs processed just 27,053 test samples for the novel coronavirus, and added 29,316 to the queue to be completed. There is currently capacity in the system for up to 50,000 tests daily. Meanwhile, the province reported a test positivity rate of 5.8 per cent.
The official COVID-19 death toll grew by 14, up to 3,519. So far this month, 374 people with COVID-19 have died in Ontario.
Hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 also jumped, up 27 to 534. Of those, 159 are being treated in intensive care and 91 with ventilators. Public health officials have identified 150 patients in ICUs as the threshold for when unrelated surgeries and procedures are likely to be postponed because of burdens on the hospital system.
Meanwhile, a group of engineers, physicians and other professionals issued an open letter to the province Tuesday, calling for updated COVID-19 guidelines that emphasize the importance of ventilation when it comes to curbing the risk of spreading the virus
‘With winter approaching, our activities are moving indoors and it is therefore imperative that public institutions, workplaces and individuals understand the risk of aerosol transmission as well as the actions that can be taken to combat it,” the letter says.
Backed by 36 professionals, it also calls on the province to mandate and fund ventilation assessments and upgrades of settings like schools and long-term care homes, establishing ventilation standards for reopening, among other measures.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada on Nov. 23, 2020 – Kamloops This Week
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
There have been 17 deaths in British Columbia over three days due to COVID-19 and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says most of the victims were seniors in long-term or assisted care.
There have been 1,933 new cases since Friday, with 1,304 of them diagnosed in the Fraser Health region.
There are 60 active outbreaks in health-care facilities, including 54 long-term care or assisted-living sites and six hospitals or acute-care facilities.
Henry says it’s now the most challenging time of COVID-19 and everyone is feeling the strain.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating due to a possible exposure to COVID-19.
A spokesman for Moe’s office says the potential exposure happened on Nov. 15 in the Prince Albert area.
Jim Billington says the premier is not experiencing symptoms but was tested today out of an abundance of caution.
He says Moe is to work remotely from his home in Shellbrook until Sunday.
The province announced 235 new cases today and four new deaths.
Nova Scotia is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 today.
The province says the new cases were identified on Sunday in the Central Zone, bringing its total active case count up to 51.
Eight of the infections are connected to previously reported cases, while three are still under investigation.
Officials say the recent rise in cases has led to stricter rules for metro Halifax Regional Municipality and parts of Hants County which go into effect today.
New Brunswick is reporting one new death and 15 new cases of COVID-19.
The new death brings the provincial fatality total to seven.
The province currently has 89 active cases of novel coronavirus and has registered 445 total cases and 349 recoveries.
Premier Blaine Higgs says there are no changes planned at this point around the Atlantic bubble despite the temporary withdrawal of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.
COVID-19 cases in Yukon have jumped to 38, 14 more infections than just a week ago.
Territorial health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says two of the new cases involve children under nine years old and at least one of those infected is over 60.
Yukon increased restrictions last week as infection rates jumped in jurisdictions around it, requiring all but critical services workers to self-isolate for two weeks when they enter the territory.
Hanley says community transmission has not yet been ruled out in some of the latest cases.
Manitoba health officials are reporting a record-high 543 new COVID-19 cases.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says there are some positive signs, however.
He says the average number of contacts per case is dropping, which could slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Manitoba brought in strict measures last week that limit store openings and public gatherings.
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 and its first case confirmed in a school.
In a press conference today, officials announced one of the new cases is a student at the elementary school in Deer Lake, in western Newfoundland.
The student’s infection is connected to a cluster of cases in the area.
Officials say the other case is also in western Newfoundland, but is related to travel and is not connected to the ongoing cluster.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has announced his province will be temporarily withdrawing from the Atlantic bubble for a two-week period starting tomorrow.
He says it’s a necessary step because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the other three Atlantic provinces.
King says all non-essential travel to and from the Island will be suspended until December 7th, at which time the situation will be re-evaluated.
The Island reported one new case of COVID 19 today.
Quebec is reporting 1,164 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say today that hospitalizations decreased by eight, to 634, and 98 patients were in intensive care, a drop of five.
The province says 1,282 more people recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 115,367 recoveries.
Quebec has reported 133,206 COVID-19 infections and 6,842 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Ontario is reporting 1,589 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 19 new deaths due to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 535 in Peel Region, 336 cases are in Toronto, and 205 cases in York Region.
The province says it has conducted 37,471 tests since the last daily report.
In total, 507 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 156 in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.
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