The Ontario government says at the request of local medical officers of health from Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay-Parry Sound those regions will remain in the stay-at-home shutdown for at least another two weeks.
“The shutdown measures and the stay-at-home order will continue to apply until at least Monday, March 8, 2021, based on key public health indicators and following consultation with the local medical officers of health,” the government said in a news release issued Friday.
Meanwhile, York Region will enter the “red zone” of the province’s COVID-19 framework on Monday, Feb. 22 at 12:01 a.m.
York Region will no longer be under a stay-at-home order, the government said.
“These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “Until vaccines are widely available, we continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health advice and measures, and stay home, stay safe, and save lives.”
The decision to keep Toronto and Peel Region as is comes after both local top doctors, Dr. Eileen de Villa and Dr. Lawrence Loh, made public statements on Wednesday.
De Villa and Loh said another incubation period of 14 days for the shutdown were needed to assess the COVID-19 situation as schools have just reopened for in-person learning and as outbreaks with new variants of concern arise.
“While the Peel and Toronto regions have seen a reduction in COVID-19 transmission from the period of Feb. 8 to 17, 2021, rates still remain too high in the regions, with case rates of 83.4 cases per 100,000 people for Peel and 67.9 cases per 100,000 people for Toronto, both well above the provincial average,” the government release said.
“During this same period of time, North Bay Parry Sound District has also seen its case rate increase by 11.5 per cent to 14.6 cases per 100,000 people. Variants of concern also remain a serious risk to community transmission and health system capacity,” the release continued.
Premier Doug Ford said local officials know their regions best and his support for their public health advice is “unwavering.”
“When they ask for more time … as premier I will listen,” Ford said.
The North Bay-Parry Sound District Health Unit had asked to remain out of the provincial framework after a coronavirus variant outbreak was declared at an apartment building that infected dozens and killed one person.
An Ontario-wide stay-at-home order and lockdown was implemented on Boxing Day, but most region’s have since moved out of those restrictions and back into the province’s colour-coded system of green-yellow-orange-red-grey in its reopening plan.
To see what you can and can’t do in the different levels of the colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, including the red zone, click here.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford’s decision to reopen York Region and other areas is “putting politics ahead of public health.”
The president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario expressed similar concerns. Doris Grinspun said her organization is pleased that Ford listened to health officials in Toronto, Peel and North Bay, but the shutdown should have been extended in York too.
“What happened in York Region is political entirely,” Grinspun said. “People in that region will pay the price in terms of an increased spike.”
—With files from The Canadian PressView link »