Today the Ontario government announced a return to a state of emergency and additional public health measures to fight the second wave of COVID-19, as the province experiences an unprecedented increase in cases and growing strain on its ICU capacity. This news comes alongside data released today showing that mobility and human interaction has not decreased since the beginning of the Provincewide Shutdown in December.
Return to a State of Emergency
Effective immediately, Ontario has once again declared a state of emergency. As was previously the case during the first wave lockdown, this will permit the Premier and his Cabinet to implement new emergency measures during this period without consulting the Legislature.
The emergency declaration is for a 14-day duration, and can be extended for an additional 14 days subject to approval by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. Thereafter, the state of emergency can be extended by approval of the Legislature for additional periods of up to 28 days.
Additional Public Health Measures
Effective Thursday at 12:01am, in all regions of the province and in addition to those measures already in force as part of the December provincewide shutdown, the following measures will be implemented:
- A stay-at-home order, effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m. Exceptions are made for essential purposes, including going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.
- Employers must ensure that all employees work from home with limited exceptions, such as where “the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace.”
- Masks must be worn in all public places, including outdoors if you cannot maintain a 2-meter distance.
- A temporary moratorium is expected for residential evictions, with further information to come in the days ahead.
- All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, cannabis dispensaries, car dealerships, 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.
- Short-term rentals are prohibited with exceptions for housing requirements. Concerts venues, cinemas and theatres are required to be closed including for drive-in and drive-through events.
- Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey. Changes have been made to the essential business list for construction sites, including:
- Construction sites related to health care, long-term care, new capacity in provincial infrastructure projects, court houses, schools, municipal infrastructure, child care centres, broad band and internet, industry construction and modification for production and maintenance of PPE and medical devices can go ahead.
- Projects that have deadlines for July 30 in food and beverage and agriculture products can proceed.
- Projects that started before today for distribution, shipping delivery among others can begin work.
- Residential construction where footing permit received or construction started before today can proceed.
- Shelters or affordable housing that is funded by any level of government can proceed as well as charities and not-for-profits.
- Manufacturing remains open but will have expanded availability for workplace testing.
As complete overview of changes to the list of essential businesses and services can be founded here. We will continue to monitor and update accordingly, subject to any updates to the Regulation.
Schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York and Hamilton will remain closed for in-person learning until Feb 10. By January 20th, the Chief Medical Officer will provide recommendations for the balance of schools across the province.
More details on the announcement can be found here.
Increased Enforcement of Public Health Measures
All provincial offences officer, including police officers, will have authority to disperse crowds indoors as well as outdoors. All officers will now have the authority to disperse crowds indoors or outdoors of more than 5 people gathering and asked to leave or separate.
The government said they will begin on Thursday an inspection blitz at big box retail.
POA officers will have the authority to issue tickets to corporations and individuals (both customers and employees) for failing to adhere to public health measures. For example, tickets can be issued to customers and employees for not wearing masks.
New COVID-19 Modelling
In new modelling released today, doctors painted a grim picture for the next month in the province, saying that the provincial health system will be overwhelmed unless there are “significant reductions in contacts.”
The expert committee reported current daily growth of between 3 and 5 per cent. If the province reaches 5 per cent overall daily growth, cases are projected to climb to over 20,000 new cases per day by February 14. If Ontario reaches 7 per cent daily growth, that number increases to 40,000 cases per day.
If growth continues at the current rate, the province will see daily death counts of between 50 and 100 people between now and mid-February, becoming the largest cause of death on a daily basis – more than cancer or heart disease.