Ontario to impose stay-at-home order, close non-essential retail, sources say - CDC
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. ET. You'll be able to watch it live in this story.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford's cabinet has approved a provincewide stay-at-home order and will close non-essential retail stores for all but curbside pickup, multiple sources told CBC News Tuesday night.
The move comes in the wake of criticism that restrictions announced last week — what the government called "emergency brake" measures — are insufficient to slow the spread of Ontario's third wave of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health reported another 3,215 cases of the illness Wednesday morning, the most on a single day since Jan. 17, when the second wave was at its peak in the province. Health units also logged 17 more deaths of people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 7,475.
The seven-day average of daily cases has climbed to 2,988, its highest point since January 18.
The upward trend in new infections comes as the province logged a record-high day for vaccinations, with 104,382 doses administered yesterday, according to the ministry.
Meanwhile, sources familiar with cabinet's decision said the stay-at-home order would take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday and last up to four weeks. CBC News is not naming the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement.
The sources said only grocery stores and pharmacies would be permitted to stay open for customers to shop indoors. They said big box retail stores would be restricted to selling only grocery and pharmacy items for in-person shopping.
Garden centres would also be permitted to stay open, according to the sources.
There is no indication that a provincewide closure of schools is part of the government's plan. In the stay-at-home order that was in place in Ontario in February, schools were explicitly excluded.
One of the sources said manufacturing and construction sites will be permitted to continue operating, with increased COVID-19 testing and more enforcement of public health guidelines, but CBC News could not obtain independent confirmation of that detail.
Earlier Tuesday, Ford defended the measures he'd announced last week, yet hinted additional restrictions were coming.
"I think we made massive moves last week by basically shutting down the entire province," Ford said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"That was huge, shutting down thousands and thousands of businesses, that I hate doing, but we're going to have further restrictions moving forward, very, very quickly."
Even though the government's measures left malls open over the Easter weekend, Ford scolded Ontarians for going shopping.
"I truly was hoping that people wouldn't be going in there to the volume that we saw," Ford said during the news conference.
"A lot of people were going into the malls and doing their little wander around and coming out with no bags," he said. "I'm sorry, but going to the malls is not essential."
Pressure has grown in recent days on the Ford government to tighten public health measures and ensure better protections for the province's essential workers.
The medical officers of health from three of Ontario's biggest public health units — Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa — urged the province on Monday to impose a stay-at-home order, travel restrictions between regions and an emergency mandate for paid sick days.
The top public health doctors in Toronto and Peel Region also ordered the closure of schools, sending nearly 600,000 students to online-only classes just days ahead of a rescheduled week-long spring break. Students in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health unit are similarly shifting to online learning for the time being.
WATCH | Toronto's medical officer of health on her decision to close schools:
Associations representing physicians and nurses issued statements saying more needed to be done to prevent further deaths and to ensure the health-care system is not overwhelmed.
Ontario has reported on average more than 2,800 new cases of COVID-19 daily over the past week. There are 504 people with COVID-19 being treated in ICUs. Admissions to intensive care previously peaked at 420 during the second wave of the pandemic earlier this year.
In Toronto, the health-care system has become so strained that the Hospital for Sick Children announced yesterday it would establish a temporary, eight-bed intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients aged 40 and under. The idea is that the new unit would help ease the burden on other hospitals in the city, which reported 1,095 more cases of COVID-19 in this morning's update.
Ford's expected announcement comes shortly after provincial health officials outlined Phase 2 of Ontario's immunization campaign.
While the plan includes an effort to get vaccines to about 90 "hot spot" neighbourhoods in 13 public health units, essential workers under 50 will likely need to wait until at least Mid-May before they can book an appointment for a first dose.
Ontario's own COVID-19 science advisory table has repeatedly cautioned that the third wave — driven largely by more transmissible and more deadly variants of concern — is dangerously outpacing the current rate of vaccinations, especially, in Toronto and Peel and York regions.
And a new analysis from ICES — an Ontario research organization that tracks data on a broad range of health-care issues — used postal codes to show people in Toronto's hardest-hit neighbourhoods aren't accessing COVID-19 vaccines at the same rate as those in higher-income areas that have seen far fewer infections.
For example, in the tony St. Clair and Rosedale area about 22.4 per cent of eligible adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the most in any part of the city.
Compare that to the Jane and Finch area, where only 5.5 per cent of eligible adults have gotten their first shot, despite having a rate of hospitalizations and deaths from the illness more than eight times that of St. Clair and Rosedale.