The ever increasing number of new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, especially in the three specific areas of Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, has prompted the Government of Ontario to set back their re-openings. Starting Saturday at 12:01 am, those select areas of Ontario will roll back to Stage 2, as the Government of Ontario tries to avoid a post-holiday weekend flare up of the coronavirus.
“The rising number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks with increasing rates of hospitalization and ICU admissions is very concerning and putting our health system capacity at risk,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a statement. “We need to halt this dangerous trend by tightening public health measures in Ottawa, Peel and Toronto in order to keep our schools open, protect our seniors and our loved ones in long-term care homes, and avoid the need for harsher measures in the future.
“This was not an easy decision but a necessary one to potentially preventing something much worse,” Elliott added.
So starting at midnight, all social gatherings in Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoor. Indoor food and drink services at restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will be prohibited, while cinemas, gyms, casinos, and performing arts centres and venues will now be closed again. Team sports will be limited to training only, and personal care services will be prohibited from providing services that require customers to take off their mask.
The modified Stage 2 restrictions will remain in effect for 28 days.
The only exception that the government is making allowance for is wedding receptions. Any receptions scheduled for the weekend will be allowed to proceed, but the new limits on social gatherings will go into effect for those getting married on Tuesday.
In Toronto, where there has been nearly 22,000 cases of COVID since March, including 350 new cases on Friday, the news about the new restrictions has been welcome.
“This is one of the most important days for our city in this fall’s COVID-19 resurgence, as we take action to contain and control this virus,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, the Medical Officer of Health for City of Toronto. “While this is a sobering moment, with sobering numbers to reflect on over the Thanksgiving weekend, we have an opportunity to reduce and reverse the COVID-19 infection rate in Toronto.
“I know there are people who will feel the effects of these actions much more than others, however I will do all I can to help those most affected weather these temporary restrictions during the next few weeks,” Dr. de Villa added.
Ontario set a new one-day record for new cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 939, and nearly two-thirds of all new cases were from Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa alone. There was also a big one day jump in the number of new cases in York (68), Halton (59), Hamilton (40), and Durham (32).
In our own area, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health added 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The number of active cases is now 47, and at least 25 of them are in Guelph alone. For the last few weeks the number of active cases of the virus in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph has hovered around 50.
For the rest of the province outside Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams is recommending that along with the physical distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing, that people limit trips outside the home to essential trips like work, grocery shopping or medical appointments.
“We are seeing the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 rising, hospitalization rates are growing, and community outbreaks are entering our nursing homes and vulnerable congregate settings,” said Dr. Williams. “We need to act quickly, and we need everyone to follow the public health guidelines if we are going to stop the spread and contain the second wave.”
Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner released a statement of his own to endorse the government’s move to take action in provincial hotspots, but he still sees warning signs on the horizon if the Province isn’t diligent.
“The Ford Government needs to be ready to place the necessary targeted restrictions in emerging hot spots so that we can provide businesses with enough notice to adapt and adjust in a less chaotic way,” Schreiner said. “We have to get ahead of the virus before other areas of the province are in the same situation that Toronto, Ottawa and Peel are now in. The best way to save lives and livelihoods is to get in front of the virus so we can avoid another lockdown.”