Doug Ford COVID-19 state of emergency

Ontario declares state of emergency, stay-at-home order as COVID-19 pushes hospitals to the brink

Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a provincial state of emergency and a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m., for at least 28 days. The announcement was made at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, and comes amidst a recent surge in COVID-19 cases that provincial health officials believe can overwhelm the province’s health-care system.

Ford’s takeaway message to Ontarians is to “please stay home, save lives,” yet added if you need to walk your dog — walk your dog. “If you need to stretch your legs, walk around the block, all we’re asking is for cooperation for the people, please stay home.”

Ford added that the province is in crisis.

“The system is on the brink of collapse. It’s on the brink of being overwhelmed,” Ford said.

Measures announced today to help curb the spread of the virus include:

  • Reducing gathering limits to five people
  • Grocery stores and other essential stores can remain open at their regular hours; but non-essential retail stores (i.e., big box stores) must be closed from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Individuals must wear masks in all public places, and masks should also be worn outside when people can’t keep apart
  • School closures will be extended to, at least, Jan. 25; schools in Toronto, Peel, Windsor, York, and Hamilton will not resume classes until, at least, Feb. 10
  • Rapid testing will be expanded
  • Testing will ramp up to 300,000/week
  • Limits on construction activity with an exception for essential construction, such as work on health care, critical infrastructure, and residential buildings
  • Non-essential workers (i.e., workers deemed non-essential to in-person operations at their jobs) will be required to work from home, or face fines. Workplace inspections will take place

People found not complying with the orders will face fines of up to a year in jail. With the stay-at-home order in effect, by-law enforcement offers will also be able to issue tickets.

The new measures brought about a host of criticism (and some confusion) on social media.

 

 

 

 

The Ford government also unveiled updated COVID-19 modelling at an earlier press conference on Tuesday morning, projecting that Ontario’s intensive care units could be over capacity by early February. Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Matthew Anderson, CEO of Ontario Health, presented the data.

Data projection highlights include:

  • Under current COVID-19 restrictions, daily deaths from the virus will double, from 50 to 100, by the end of February
  • There could be approximately 500 COVID-19 patients in intensive care by the end of January and possibly more than 1,000 by February (in severe scenarios)
  • A large proportion of Ontarians are not following basic public health guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19
  • Mobility data showed a spike in movement by Ontarians in the days before Christmas, despite growing case numbers

Projections concerning long-term care and nursing homes are:

  • 40 per cent of Ontario’s nursing homes are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19; in long-term care homes
  • 198 residents and two staff died of COVID-19 in long-term care homes since Jan. 1

Projections on the U.K. variant of COVID-19 in Ontario:

  • The U.K. variant is 50 per cent more transmissible of the existing strain of COVID-19; it could drive much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality if community transmission occurs
  • If the U.K. variant becomes more established in the community, Ontario could see its infection rate begin to double every 10 days by March

“Two-thirds of the population is working to try to break the spread of the disease, but I think their efforts would go and be undone if the entire province does not pitch in here,” Dr. Brown noted at the press conference. He also stressed that without significant reductions in contacts, “the health system will be overwhelmed and mortality will exceed the first wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect.”

On Tuesday, Ontario reported 2,903 cases of COVID-19 — a drop from the 3,338 cases reported Monday, and the lowest daily increase in cases reported since Jan. 1. The case counts include eight new cases of the B117 U.K. variant — six cases of the variant had previously been reported in Ontario.

From the new COVID case numbers: 837 new cases were reported in Toronto, 545 in Peel, 249 in York Region, and 246 in Niagara. Over 44,800 tests were completed on Monday, according to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, 133,553 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

 

 

Notably absent among the new measures being taken by the Ford government is a province-wide curfew. The idea was reportedly discussed by the cabinet, however, it was not included as part of the new restrictions as public health officials nixed the idea.

A province-wide curfew in Quebec began on Saturday night and will continue for, at minimum, the next four weeks, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Any individual out between those hours without a valid reason could face fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.  Although it’s only been in effect for a few days, Quebec police reportedly issued more than 700 tickets across the province during the first weekend of the curfew, leading some to compare it to a “dystopian nightmare.”

 

 

In an interview with CP24 on Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he doesn’t rule a curfew out, but he also questioned whether it would be the most effective thing to do.

“If you have a curfew, can we enforce it?” Tory said in the interview.  “If you said to me that, short of a curfew, you had to put more hours of restrictions on when you could get food, I would be perfectly comfortable with that.”

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