Ontario is moving schools online for at least two weeks, temporarily closing indoor dining and gyms and pausing non-urgent medical procedures as it faces record-high case counts that, according to public health officials, threaten to overwhelm the province’s health-care system.
Premier Doug Ford announced the changes at a morning news conference Monday. He was joined by his ministers of health and finance, as well Ontario’s chief medical officer of health and the CEO of Ontario Health.
The new restrictions are part of a modified version of Step Two of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen, which was first implemented earlier last year.
“Our public health experts tell us we could see hundreds of thousands of cases every day,” Ford said of the ongoing surge of new COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.
He said that this could mean hospitals end up thousands of beds short.
“If we don’t do everything possible to get this variant under control, the results could be catastrophic. It is a risk I cannot take.”
The province announced all publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting Jan. 5 until at least Jan. 17.
Ford said the decision to close schools, a move that would last at least two weeks, was taken because the province couldn’t guarantee schools would be fully staffed with so many teachers expected to be off sick.
The move comes after last Thursday’s announcement, when Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said the return to school date would be pushed by two days to Wednesday but would still be in-person. Moore said the province wanted to give schools extra time to provide N95 masks to staff and to deploy 3,000 HEPA filter units.
Though they were asked repeatedly by reporters on Monday, provincial officials did not provide a list of any other specific steps they plan to take in order to ensure a safe return to school on Jan. 17.
Indoor dining closed, new capacity limits
The new restrictions announced today also include:
- Indoor dining at restaurants and bars closed.
- Only outdoor dining, takeout, drive through and delivery permitted.
- Social gathering limits reduced to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
- Retail stores, malls, public libraries and personal care services limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Saunas, steam rooms and oxygen bars closed.
- Capacity at weddings, funerals and religious services limited to 50 per cent capacity per room.
- Outdoor services must have two-metre distancing between all attendees.
- Employees must work remotely unless their work requires them to be on site.
- Gyms and other indoor recreational sport facilities closed, except athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and certain professional and elite sports leagues.
- Outdoor facilities are permitted but with a 50 per cent capacity limit on spectators.
- Museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, historic sites, amusement parks, festivals and other attractions closed.
- Outdoor establishments allowed with restrictions and capacity limits.
- Indoor meeting and event spaces closed with limited exceptions, except those with outdoor spaces, which can operate with restrictions.
The new measures will kick in on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 12:01 a.m. and will remain in effect for at least 21 days, until Jan. 26.
New modelling from Public Health Ontario shows that the Omicron variant could eventually overwhelm the entire health system.
The projections suggest hospitalizations could peak by the end of this month, but health officials noted that tightened public health measures will blunt the rate of Omicron’s spread.
Non-urgent surgeries paused
As part of the modified step two of the province’s re-opening plan, Moore reinstated a directive ordering hospitals to pause all non-urgent surgeries and procedures in order to preserve critical care capacity.
That measure had been taken during earlier waves in the pandemic, contributing to a large backlog of procedures the health system had been working to clear in recent months.
Elliott said the decision was made due to staffing pressures and the need for bed spaces in light of Omicron’s growth across the province.
The chief executive officer of Ontario Health, which oversees the province’s health system, said the directive would affect between 8,000 and 10,000 procedures a week.
“It was a tough decision, a big cost, but something that is necessary given what we’re seeing in the numbers,” Matt Anderson said.
Between 1,200 and 1,500 additional beds have been designated to provide care to patients with Omicron, Moore said.
“We anticipate through the modelling that those 1,200 to 1,500 beds will be essential to be able to provide oxygen and care,” he said.
Moore noted that the number of hospitalizations will dictate when restrictions can be relaxed.
The “tsunami” of Omicron cases is expected to result in 20 to 30 per cent absenteeism for employees in all sectors across Ontario in the coming weeks, he said.
Expanded rebate program for businesses affected
Employers are asked to let employees work remotely “unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.”
The government said free child-care will be provided for frontline workers with school-aged children. The decision to move to virtual learning comes less than a week after the government said it would open schools in person on Wednesday.
Also announced Monday was an expanded rebate program for businesses affected by the new slate of closures.
The government said certain businesses ordered to close will be reimbursed for 100 per cent of property tax and energy costs, and those that must reduce capacity to 50 per cent will receive a rebate payment for half those expenses.
Ahead of the news conference, Ontario reported another 13,578 new cases of COVID-19. That followed 16,714 cases on Sunday and a pandemic-high 18,445 cases on Saturday.
Public Health Ontario has warned recently that daily case counts are “an underestimate” given changes to testing eligibility and Omicron’s quick spread.
Omicron cases surge
Ontario discovered its first case of the Omicron variant on Nov. 28, just days after South African researchers alerted the world to its existence. Around three weeks later, Omicron became the dominant variant, making up the majority of new daily infections in the province.
On Dec. 16, Ontario’s COVID-19 science table called for “circuit breaker” restrictions to combat the rapid spread of Omicron and avoid ICU admissions reaching “unsustainable levels” by early January.
In response, Ontario reintroduced capacity limits at restaurants, bars and retailers on Dec. 19, capping most at 50 per cent. It also mandated they close at 11 p.m., imposed limits on the sale of alcohol and limited private indoor gatherings to 10 people.
Some limits were also placed on sports and extracurricular activities, and capacity restrictions on large venues were also imposed.
But some experts warned even those measures weren’t strong enough to curb “out of control” transmission of the virus.
Hospitalizations, ICU admissions rising
While a more comprehensive provincial update is expected Tuesday, below are some key pandemic indicators and figures provided by Health Minister Christine Elliott Monday morning.
The number of people with COVID-19 in ICUs across the province rose to 248 on Monday from 224 on Sunday and 214 on Saturday. The seven-day average currently sits at 210.
In total, there are 1,232 people hospitalized with COVID-19, although Elliott noted that not all hospitals report on weekends.
More than 89,000 doses of vaccine were administered on Sunday, Elliott said, and to date, 27,422,363 doses have been administered in Ontario. Nearly 91 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 or older have received one dose of a vaccine, while more than 88 per cent have received two doses.
Global jobs recovery delayed by pandemic uncertainty, Omicron, ILO says
The global job market will take longer to recover than previously thought, with unemployment set to remain above pre-COVID-19 levels until at least 2023 due to uncertainty about the pandemic’s course and duration, the International Labour Organization said in a report on Monday.
The U.N. agency estimates the equivalent of around 52 million fewer jobs in 2022 versus pre-COVID levels, which amounts to about double its previous estimate from June 2021.
Disruptions are set to continue into 2023 when there will still be around 27 million fewer jobs, it said, warning of a “slow and uncertain” recovery in its World Employment and Social Outlook report for 2022.
“The global labour market outlook has deteriorated since the ILO’s last projections; a return to pre-pandemic performance is likely to remain elusive for much of the world over the coming years,” the report said.
Director-General Guy Ryder told journalists that there were numerous factors behind its revision, saying the “primary one is the continuing pandemic and its variants, notably Omicron.”
The speed of recovery varies across regions, with the European and North American regions showing the most encouraging signs and Southeast Asia and South America lagging behind, according to the report.
Still, the projected deficit in working hours this year represents an improvement over the past two years. In 2021, the ILO estimates there were some 125 million fewer jobs than pre-pandemic levels and in 2020, 258 million fewer.
Overall, around 207 million people are estimated to be unemployed in 2022. However, the report said that the impact would be significantly greater since many people have left the labour force and have yet to return.
Among those are a high number of women https://www.reuters.com/markets/funds/gender-equality-takes-one-step-forward-three-back-during-covid-2021-12-02, often because they have been drawn into unpaid work at home such as teaching children during school closures or caring for sick family members.
The report predicted that the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s employment would narrow in the coming years but that a “sizeable gap” would remain.
“There are some anecdotal indications that they are not coming back in the same numbers and in the same portions as men are doing which would lead to concerns that a ‘Long COVID’ effect on gender at work would be a negative one,” said Ryder.
Others who have left the workforce have done so voluntarily as part of a phenomenon some economists call “the great resignation”. Ryder said this appeared to be more prominent in areas of the economy such as health and care giving.
“We do need to look again and to invest further in those areas of economic activity,” he said.
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Chizu Nomiyama)
Black and Racialized Artists, Musicians and Producers Join Forces For THE FREEDOM MARCHING PROJECT
January 2022/Toronto, ON — Rufus John, award-winning Black Caribbean-Canadian R&B/ Soul singer & songwriter is gearing up to release the single, Freedom Marching (Part I). The song will be available for pre-order on January 10th, 2022 and will be featured on the 3-song EP, The Freedom Marching Project, which is slated to be released on February 4th, 2022.
In support of the release of the EP, the project will also consist of; two official music videos, one in-studio performance video, a Call-To-Action Commercial, a Behind the Scenes Docuseries and a website that will feature resources and information for those who are willing to watch, listen and learn to then #JoinTheMarch.
The Freedom Marching Project founded by John, was inspired by the thousands of people who had the courage to use their voice to take action by marching through streets all over the world shouting, “Black Lives Matter!” in what is hailed as the most significant civil rights movement of our generation. The goals of the Project are to use the creative power of Art, Education and Activism to; honor the community leaders who are fighting daily on the frontlines for equity, access, diversity, participation, and rights for Black, Indigenous, racialized communities, to shed light on the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous & Racialized communities and to provide resources and information to those who want to Stay Informed, Get Connected and Take Action.
John’s own music tells life stories of his past. A certified youth worker and mentor, John’s goal is to bring to the fore-front, deeply embedded issues experienced by the youth he helps and to inspire those who want to do more, to listen, to learn and join the movement. John’s mandate has always been to not just connect but to engage. John’s patience & commitment comes from his own experiences & mistakes and the people that helped him. Walking alongside the youth he mentors is not only necessary for their journey but for his. Being in for the long term is important. Showing up is key.
John used his connections within the music industry to bring together some Juno & Grammy award winners & nominees to lend their voices and talents to this special project. Collectively the talented group is called, United Artists 4 change and the ensemble features over 40 Black and Racialized Artists, Musicians and Producers from around Canada. The EP was produced by Da-Rell Clifton, vocally produced by Gary McAuley, Rufus John & Darren Hamilton, and mixed/mastered by Dan Brodbeck. Some of the artists involved are: JRDN, Carlos Morgan, D.O, Chad Price, Dan-e-o, Owen “O Sound” Lee, Dwayne Morgan, Quisha Wint, Jason Simmons (Vocal Paint), The McAuley Boys, Nefe, Clair Davis, Aphrose, D/Shon and The Waterloo Region Mass Choir.
The Freedom Marching Project has partnered with Community leader Selam Debs & the initiative Parents of Black Children. A Go Fund Me page has been set up where people can donate for the month of February and all the proceeds raised via Go Fund Me will be evenly distributed between The Freedom Marching Project and our partners who are combating racism, oppression and discrimination within the current systems and communities.
Jan 10th: Pre save/order Freedom Marching (Part I)
Jan 17th: Docuseries Ep.1
Jan 21st: Docuseries Ep. 2
Jan 26th: Docuseries Ep. 3
Jan 28th: Freedom Marching (Part I) Release
Feb 1st: In Studio Music Video Release
Feb 4th: Full EP Release
Feb 11th & 12th: Music Videos Release
Connect with The Freedom Marching Project:
Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@freedommarchingproject
** Talent available for interviews
Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
National Gaming on Capital Hill
This past January 13th, The US Supreme Court issued two rulings blocking an Occupational Safety and Health Administrations COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for employers who have 100 or more employees, while allowing a separate rule which applies to healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funds.
The 6-3 decision blocked OSHA and other organizations from imposing any such rule. While the OSHA made every effort to enforce temporary emergency standards in its massive organization, it seems the influence and legal pressure applied by both Labor and Corporations to end this attempt to have 84 million workers get COVID-19 vaccinations was too much for the administration.
The Supreme court directed organizations and corporations with more than 100 employees to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with exceptions for employees that instead are required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face mask at work.
While many corporations and manufacturers did enforce OSHA rules and carry out the needed mass vaccinations, the problem arose that such an organization such as OSHA had never issued such a mandate, and Congress had declined to enact any measure similar to OSHA’s. What do we have here folks? A governmental organization trying to carry out what the Biden Administration has asked to be done in America. The vaccines are available, but a large portion of America remains unvaccinated.
Instead of issuing a Presidential Executive Order declaring an emergency, the Administration has directed a few organizations to do so that they can wait and see if such a mandate will be accepted and approved by the population, labor, and business sectors. Perhaps it is the way this is being done that is the problem for The Supreme court, or the Republican friendly conservative of the court simply outnumber the liberal members. Politics as usual. Ineffectual, unworkable politics where no matter the issue, the Republicans will block any Democratic Administration’s attempt to protect America.
A nation divided, even when the lives of many are at stake. American media makes the storming of the Capital on Jan 6th seem like an emergency, an insurrection of serious substance while the Republicans on the Capital, block in every way possible any attempt to save lives through public safety and health mandates. Remember how the Republican strategy to make Obama Administration seem ineffectual by blocking all legislative efforts? The same Republicans are repeating this strategy with the Biden Administration. A sports analogy whereby one blocks constantly until your opponent makes a mistake and fumbles. While the lives of millions are threatened by COVID-19 these Republicans play games with the nation. Americans are feeling stressed, hopeless, and fearful of their future and yet their elected officials cannot work together to accomplish anything, except perhaps giving themselves a wage increase. Have those on Capital Hill forgotten who they represent?
Oilers place goaltender Stuart Skinner in COVID-19 protocol – Sportsnet.ca
OnePlus 10 Pro and OnePlus Nord 2 CE release dates posed a month apart from each other – Notebookcheck.net
Mars Was Likely A Cold, Wet World 3 Billion Years Ago – IFLScience
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
News19 hours ago
Back to school in 4 provinces as Omicron spreads – CTV News
Economy19 hours ago
China’s Economy Slowed Late Last Year on Real Estate Troubles – The New York Times
News18 hours ago
Winter storm slams U.S. East Coast, Canada, thousands of flights canceled
Science18 hours ago
Roberta Bondar flew into space 30 years ago and never saw Earth the same after that – CBC.ca
Business17 hours ago
China cuts rates on policy loans for first time since April 2020 – CNBC
Sports18 hours ago
Novak Djokovic arrives in Dubai after deportation from Australia – Sportsnet.ca
News4 hours ago
National Gaming on Capital Hill
Health17 hours ago
'Choose increased antibodies over brand': Moderna appointments still being cancelled in London, Ont. area – CTV News London