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|Ontario Declares Second Provincial Emergency in Response to COVID-19 Crisis|
“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences. That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives.” – Premier Doug FordProvisions of the 2nd Declaration of Emergency:
Effective Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government is issuing a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions are aimed at limiting people’s mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household. In addition to limiting outings to essential trips, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
These new public health measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 by reducing concerning levels of mobility as the province continues its vaccine rollout and ramps up to mass vaccination when the federal government is able to provide the necessary supply to do so.Additional Public Health Measures
Since the implementation of the Province-wide Shutdown over two weeks ago, the latest modelling trends in key public health indicators have continued to worsen, forecasting that our health system may be overwhelmed unless drastic action is taken. Escalating case counts have led to increasing hospitalization rates and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy which has resulted in cancellations of scheduled surgeries and procedures.
Provincial modelling shows the growth in COVID-19 cases has accelerated. ICU occupancy by COVID-19 patients is now over 400 beds and is projected to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February, which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario’s hospitals. The number of COVID-19-related deaths continues to rise and is expected to double from 50 to 100 deaths per day between now and the end of February. Notably, data shows that mobility and contacts between people have not decreased with the current restrictions. A new variant of COVID-19 emerged in November. If community transmission of this variant increases, Ontario could experience much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality.
In response to the alarming and exceptional circumstances at hand, and to further interrupt the deadly trend of transmission in Ontario communities, hospitals, and long-term care homes, the government will enact the following additional public health measures:Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. This is consistent with the rules during the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 and will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres. All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.These measures will come into effect between Tuesday January 12, 2021 and Thursday, January 14, 2021.Additional Testing Provided for Schools & Long Term Care HomesTo help quickly identify and isolate cases of COVID-19 in workplaces and service providers permitted to remain open such as long-term care homes and schools, the province will provide up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week to support key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain and food processing, as well as additional tests for schools and long-term care homes. This volume of rapid tests would support antigen screening for up to 150,000 workers per week over the next 4-5 months in Ontario’s most critical workplaces.The province is expecting to receive 12 million Panbio tests from the federal government over the next several months and continues to pursue opportunities to purchase additional rapid tests.The government knows that in order to keep Ontarians safe, it is important that they are not forced to leave their homes during the new state of emergency. Ontario is exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place and will have more to say in the coming days. The additional public health restrictions introduced expand on the existing measures put in place to keep Ontarians safe and healthy.New Enforcement Measures
Under the declaration of a provincial emergency, the province will provide authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce. Those who decide not to abide by orders will be subject to set fines and/or prosecution under both the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, (ROA) and Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA).
In addition, all enforcement personnel will have the authority to temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of an order and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park or house.
Fines for violations remain as follows: Individuals can either be issued a ticket for a set fine amount established by the Ontario Chief Justice: Fail to comply with an order: $750 Obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order: $1,000 Obstruct any person performing a duty in accordance with an order: $1,000 or be served with a summons (Part I) or have an information laid (Part III) in which case the court would impose a penalty upon conviction – subject to the maximum penalty of a fine of not more than $100,000 and not more than 1 year in jail. In the case of corporations or corporate officers, the fine imposed would be determined upon conviction as part of sentencing, but for a corporation could be as high as $10,000,000. In addition, fines can be increased by an amount equal to the financial benefit that was acquired by or that accrued to the person as a result of the commission of the offence. In addition, hosts or organizers of gatherings which exceed limits may face more stringent penalties. On conviction, this offence carries a $10,000 minimum fine. Halton School Boards
The date of return for Halton District School Board and the Halton Catholic District School Board in-person learning remains Jan. 25. Halton families will be notified by January 20 if remote learning will be further extended.
Five boards in higher-risks areas will remain closed to in-person learning until February 10, including our neighbouring boards in Toronto, York, Peel and Hamilton.
By January 20, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education on which public health units (PHUs) will be permitted to resume in-person instruction, based on the most up-to-date data and modelling. Before- and after-school programs can be offered when in-person instruction resumes. Schools in northern PHUs will continue to remain open.
To continue to keep students, staff and communities safe, the following new health and safety measures will be put in place for in-person learning when schools resume:Masking for Grade 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;Enhanced screening protocols; andExpanded targeted testing. Childcare CentresChildcare centres for non-school aged children will remain open, and emergency childcare for school-aged children will end in approved PHU regions on January 22, 2021 as these elementary schools return to in-person learning. During this extended period of online learning, in areas where in-person elementary learning is suspended, emergency childcare will continue for eligible families in regions subject to school closures, as identified by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.The government will also implement new health and safety measures in Ontario childcare settings, such as enhanced screening to align with school requirements, voluntary participation in targeted testing and additional infection prevention and control measures to align with schools. These enhancements are in addition to the existing health and safety measures already being implemented in childcare settings across the province.For More InformationFor daily updates on COVID-19 and Vaccinations you can visit covid-19.ontario.ca/ and for the latest modelling trends and COVID-19 You can find out more about COVID-19 modelling and projections here.
You can find out more detailed information regarding emergency measures and workplace safety.