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Ontario considers more restrictions, as COVID cases hit record

Sylvia Jones

With COVID-19 cases counts breaking records, Ontario is considering stricter measures. The province had a record-setting 4,736 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

Ontario's Grey Bruce Health Unit is telling residents to stay home for the next two days as COVID-19 variants of concern surge in the region, while the Canadian Medical Association issued an urgent plea for "unprecedented measures to address the state of crisis unfolding in several provinces," including Ontario.

"As the third wave of the pandemic wreaks havoc on the healthcare and public health systems, healthcare providers, and patients, we are at a critical juncture where a truly national approach to combatting COVID-19 will make the difference between more or fewer lives saved," said CMA President Dr. Ann Collins in a statement Friday morning. "We must do everything needed to avoid making unbearable choices as to who lives if resources are not available."

The CMA went on to call for "province-to-province collaboration and national leadership" to deploy resources where they are most needed "to save the most lives. This means sharing healthcare resources across provincial and territorial borders" and a "re-prioritization of its vaccine distribution strategy to focus on areas of urgent need as opposed to the per-capita approach adopted to date."

The physicians also want an enhanced form of paid sick leave.

The rate of active cases in Ontario is 260.22 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 29,459 new cases. Health Minister Christine Elliott said that includes 1,188 new cases in Toronto, 983 in Peel Region and 526 in York Region.

There were also 29 new reported deaths in Ontario Thursday and 145 new reported deaths oveer the past seven days. The overall death rate is 51.85 per 100,000 people.

Premier Doug Ford has been meeting with his cabinet and is actively considering more restrictions. Under consideration are the shut down of construction to only critical infrastructure projects, limits on non-essential manufacturing and warehousing, further restrictions on religious services and retail, fining business owners if non-essential staff attend work in person and increased enforcement of the province’s stay-at-home order.

Ford is expected to make anannouncement Friday at 2:30 p.m. The latest modeling is expected at 1 p.m.

"I am concerned when I see photos of people who are clearly not socially distancing in parks," said Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general. "I’m concerned when I see that there are line-ups unnecessarily and people are not respecting the stay-at-home order, they’re not respecting the social distancing. Look, this is serious.”

Sources also say a province-wide curfew is under consideration, but Jones wouldn’t confirm that. She did say she was concerned about the riots in Montreal after a curfew was imposed there.  

The province’s associate medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said Ontario’s situation is dire and the data is alarming. The data expected to be released Friday suggests 12,000-18,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day and as many as 1,800 people in ICUs.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

WBFO’s comprehensive news coverage extends into Southern Ontario and Dan Karpenchuk is the station’s voice from the north. The award-winning reporter covers binational issues, including economic trends, the environment, tourism and transportation.
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