Ford issues stay-at-home order, online learning in hot zones continues into February

As part of Ontario’s second state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Doug Ford announced a stay-at-home order for the province, while also extending online learning for school in hot zones into February. 

« There will be soon some really dark days ahead, some turbulent waters, but we will get through this, » Ford said. « No more than ever, we need, I need, you to do your part, stay home, save lives, protect our health care system. »

The new measures came the same day the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table issued its latest modelling projections.   

Among the projections that should the UK variant spread too much in the community, the rate at which our case counts double will drop from the current rate of 35 to 40 days to just 10, and that forecasts suggest there will be more deaths in long-term care in this current wave than the first. 

Since January 1st, 198 LTC residents have died, as well as two staff. 

SCHOOLS 

On education, following a recent extension of online learning in Toronto, Peel, York, Hamilton and Windsor-Essex to January 25th, the new extension goes until February 10th. 

Ford said on January 20th, the chief medical officer of health will provide recommendations for the remaining regions. 

« When it comes to our children, I will not take any unnecessary risk, » Ford said. 

When asked what is being done to ensure school will be able to return, government officials responded by saying they are tracking transmission levels among children, as well as mobility rates which could be affected by parents staying home for longer periods of time. 

« We do want them to go back as soon as they can, » Health Minister Christine Elliott said. 

Child care centres for non-school aged children will remain open, and emergency child care for

school-aged children will end in approved regions on January 22, 2021 as elementary

schools re-open. 

STAY-AT-HOME AND BUSINESSES 

The stay-at-home order takes the ongoing message of remaining at home as much as possible one step further with a mandated strategy, laying out that essential reasons to leave include work, buying groceries and medications, exercise and accessing health care. 

The government also said employers – if they haven’t done so already – should ensure that employees can stay home to work do so. 

« Back in March and April, the streets were empty down here, » Ford said, adding according to ministry of transportation data, mobility downtown has increased to levels closer to what it was like before the lockdown. « People are out there, they’re moving from point A to point B, and we’re just asking people, please cooperate, please stay at home. »  

Unlike Quebec which has a curfew and requires documents or other proof for being out, discretion will be left with an police or bylaw officer if they question someone’s movements, the premier’s office said, while adding legal parameters of the order will be released Wednesday. 

Outdoor gatherings were also reduced from 10 people to five. 

Ford also pledged an enforcement blitz on big box stores during this next period to ensure they are adhering to public health rules, such as capacity and crowd-wearing. 

However, there were no changes implemented on the stores when it comes to hours of operation or what items they sell, such as in Wal-Mart of Costco locations. 

Non-essential stores however, such as hardware or offering curbside pickup and delivery must operate in hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Julie Kwiecinsky with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business slammed the approach. 

« The score today after this announcement is Goliath 2, David 0, » she said. 

Rocco Rossi with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce agreed. 

« Effectively a curfew on smaller businesses, a promise of enforcement on both individuals and businesses, » he said. 

The government will also use what it calls a data-driven approach to focus inspections in areas that have experienced outbreaks, such as manufacturing, warehouses, distribution centres, food processing buildings, construction sites and other workplaces. 

The PCs says they’re also exploring options to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place, and that more details will come soon. 

SICK LEAVE 

One of the main calls from the opposition and various advocates has been introducing paid sick leave so they can have more protections, especially if they work in essential workplaces and congregate care settings, including from the Toronto Board of Health. 

However, that was not one of the new measures introduced. 

« What we’ve agreed with with the federal government, we aren’t going to duplicate areas of support, » he said, referencing the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit. « We’re going to be there for the people in all different types of fashions, no matter if it’s making sure that people can’t be evicted from their homes, making sure that we give $200 to parents for every child that is in school, we’re keeping the electricity rates low. » 

University of Toronto infectious disease specialist Dr. Colin Furness criticized the overall response given the health care realities presented earlier in the day. 

« A stay-at-home order on one hand, but outdoor gatherings permitted on the other hand, it’s just not, the expertise that we need to make smart decisions, that expertise is not sitting at the table, » he said. « We’re being a bit lopsided, we’re going to crack down on unsafe workplaces, but we’re not doing much in the home department, we need to do both. » 

Ford issues stay-at-home order, online learning in hot zones continues into February
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