Ontario Locking Down on Boxing Day, City of Guelph Responding with New Measures

After weeks of speculation, the Government of Ontario formally announced on Monday that the province will be going back into lockdown on Boxing Day this Saturday. The province-wide increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases has prompted the Provincial government to give the gift of staying at home the day after Christmas even as new areas in the GTA entered grey-level lockdowns on Monday.

“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement Monday. “We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That’s why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shutdown the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians.”

There will be two timelines for the lockdown, all areas in northern Ontario will be locked down for 14 days, while all areas of southern Ontario will be locked down for 28 days. The conditions will not be too dissimilar from the lockdown earlier this year at the start of the pandemic with only essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies being allowed to open, and with restaurants and food courts only accepting take out and delivery orders.

All Ontarians are encouraged to stay home for the duration, and only leave home for essential trips like groceries, medications, or medical appointments.

“This was not an easy decision before the holidays, but we have reached a tipping point,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “We continue to see sharp increases in hospitalizations and occupancy in intensive care units is reaching concerning levels. By implementing a provincewide shutdown, we can work to stop the virus in its tracks, safeguard hospital capacity, and save lives.”

School kids will also be getting at least one extra week at home after the normal holiday break as all schools across Ontario will be closed the week of January 4. That week, all Ontario school students will shift to online learning but many will be allowed to return to in-person classes on January 11. All school kids, elementary and secondary, in northern Ontario will return to their physical classrooms on January 11, but only elementary school kids in southern Ontario will go back on to school on that day. All Ontario secondary school students will be back in class on January 25.

“While our schools are not a source of rising community transmission, we can play an important part of the solution to save lives from COVID-19,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We are taking proactive and preventative action to protect schools following the holiday break to ensure kids can continue in-class learning — something we believe is so important — for the remainder of the year.”

Meanwhile in Guelph…

On the heels of the Provincial government’s announcement, the City of Guelph sent out a media release to explain how exactly they were going to respond to the new one-month lockdown.

“I know our community has already sacrificed so much trying to slow down this virus, yet our neighbours, family members and co-workers are still getting sick; health professionals across the province tell us COVID-19 may soon overrun our hospitals,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “I know no one wants that to happen here in Guelph. I also know Guelphites will join me and step up once again and support each other, local businesses, charities and our frontline heroes.”

All indoor recreation and sports facilities in the City will be closed for the lockdown, and so will Guelph Museums, the River Run Centre, and the Sleeman Centre. Although both City Hall and the provincial offences court will be closed at 2 pm on Christmas Eve, they will re-open again on January 4 with reduced hours from 9 am to 3 pm.

All branches of the Guelph Public Library will also be closing on December 26, and will  re-open for curbside pick-up only on Monday December 28. “We will continue to provide the best service we can. Library services are available online or phone your neighbourhood library branch or email askus [at] guelphpl.ca,” said Guelph Public Library CEO Steven Kraft in a statement.

While the library will remain sort of open to patrons during the lockdown, the City’s outdoor rec facilities like parks, trails, playgrounds and outdoor rinks will remain open with some restrictions for physical distancing. This has already been an issue at the rink in Market Square, which has been temporarily closed due to repeated acts of overcrowding on the weekend.

“We’re considering options for scheduled skate times in Market Square,” DCAO of Public Services Colleen Clack-Bush in a statement. “We’ll update the community as soon as those options are available. For now, we’re encouraging people to stay active using Guelph parks and trails, and have a safe holiday.”

The Guelph Farmers’ Market will be closed on December 26 and January 2 for a pre-arranged break for cleaning and upgrades, and Guelph Transit will continue to operate under its current schedule.

The Latest Numbers

We’ve now broken 300 active cases of COVID-19 here in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. There were 133 new cases over the weekend to bring the exact number of active cases up to 315 including 152 cases in Guelph, 44 in Wellington County, 59 in Dufferin County, and 60 that are unassigned.

The 7-Day moving rate of new cases is now 92.6 per 100,000 and the 7-Day moving average for the test positivity rate is now on its way to four per cent at 3.6.

Across Ontario on Monday, there were 2,123 new cases of the virus, which is not a record, but it’s further proof that 2,000+ new cases per day is the new normal. Toronto had 611 new cases followed by 480 in Peel, 192 in York Region, and 91 in Durham, which combined is 65 per cent of all new cases of COVID centralized in the Toronto area.

In our immediate area, there were actually more new cases in Waterloo and Halton than Durham Region on Monday, but 17 per cent of all new cases were in the Central West region, which includes Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

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