The fact that COVID-19 cases are increasing again is forcing the Government of Ontario to come up with a new and easy way of making sure Ontarians know where the danger lies, and the answer seems to be colour. On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford and select members of his cabinet introduced the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, which will colour grade all 34 of the province’s health units from green to grey.
“It’s clear COVID-19 will be with us for a while, which is why we are putting in place a framework that will protect the health and safety of individuals and families, while avoiding broader closures across the province,” said Ford in a statement. “This framework, developed in consultation with our health experts, will serve as an early warning system allowing us to scale up and scale back public health restrictions on a regional or community basis in response to surges and waves of COVID-19.”
There are five different levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown. Each level comes with new stricter measures depending on the number of cases, the rate of community transmission, and the capacity in area hospitals and the ICUs. At the Green level, the focus is on awareness and education, while the Grey-Lockdown level sees a return to full scale lockdown measures akin to what happened back in the spring.
“This framework is critical to ensuring that public health measures are able to help slow the spread of the virus, while also supporting mental health and other social determinants of health,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams. “The framework operates like a dimmer switch, enabling measures and restrictions to be increased and give individuals and families the information they need to adjust their activities and interactions based on local epidemiological data.”
The first classifications will be announced this coming Friday, and then go into effect on Saturday at 12:01 am. As it stands today, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health will be listed with much of the rest of the province under Green-Prevent. Brant, Hamilton, Halton, and Durham are Yellow-Protect while Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Peel, York and Toronto will be classified as Orange-Restrict. No health units will be listed under either red or grey for the time being.
On Tuesday there were four new cases in Guelph alone, with 32 total active cases right now. In the rest of Ontario, there were 1,050 new cases, which is a new single one-day high for new cases since the start of the pandemic in March. The government will review where each public health area sits on their new colour-meter every 28 days, or two viral incubation periods, and re-evaluate.
In other news, the Government of Ontario pledged another $300 million for businesses across the province in advance of the budget announcement on Thursday. The funding comes in the form of rebates that will cover the period of time that businesses are required to temporarily close, or significantly restrict services, because the area they’re in is listed as either red or grey.
“On Thursday, I’ll introduce Ontario’s 2020 Budget, the next phase of Ontario’s Action Plan. It is a plan that will have three pillars,” explained Minister of Finance Rod Phillips. “As we announced yesterday, the first is protect. The second pillar is support, because we know COVID-19 has brought severe challenges and economic difficulties to families and employers. Supporting businesses affected by necessary public health restrictions in regions experiencing a greater risk from COVID-19 is one way we are helping employers manage during these difficult times.”