No COVID-19 curfews planned for Ontario, government source says
Jan. 12, 2021
A province-wide curfew like Quebec’s was not on the table as Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet met Monday night to hammer out tougher restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has now killed more than 5,000 Ontarians.
Although the province has effectively been in a state of emergency since March 17, the government was considering a second such declaration to underscore the gravity of rapidly escalating case levels, which computer modelling shows are threatening to overwhelm hospital intensive care units in February.
“It means some potentially devastating discussions because the province will lack the capability to care for some patients,” Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, told the Star on Monday.
“If you or a loved one get COVID now, there may not be a bed for you,” Dr. Ian Preyra, an emergency physician and chief of staff at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, warned on Twitter.
A second state of emergency would supersede the Reopening Ontario Act, passed in July, that gave the government the power to keep emergency orders on the books, orders such as restricting gatherings and closing public places.
But a new declaration would give the Progressive Conservative administration more flexibility to limit daily activities that officials believe are fuelling transmission of COVID-19 to record levels even before the full impacts of New Year’s Eve parties are reflected in daily case counts by week’s end.
A sombre Ford emerged from his office Monday morning to say officials “worked all weekend” on better ways to slow the virus, with details to be announced Tuesday afternoon following the release of updated computer modelling Ford and other officials have called “scary.”
Recommendations from chief medical officer Dr. David Williams did not include a curfew, which Ford had recently refused to rule out.
“There isn’t very good evidence one way or the other” on how well they work, associate chief medical officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe told a news conference Monday as 3,338 new daily cases lifted the seven-day moving average to a record 3,555 -- up a stunning 90 per cent from four weeks ago.
Over the last week, an average of 7.1 per cent of people tested for COVID-19 had the virus. Williams has warned new daily cases could reach 6,000 to 10,000 within two weeks if the spread is left unchecked.
With the province in a partial lockdown that closes restaurants to indoor dining, non-essential businesses, gyms and theatres, further options for the government include limiting where Ontarians can go to work in person, as was the case with the strict lockdown imposed last March when manufacturing and non-essential retail were among the sectors idled.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton was consulting with the construction industry, for example. Transit and hospital construction would not be impacted.
The biggest problem is that, according to surveys, about one-third of people in Ontario say they are not following public health guidelines such as physical distancing and staying away from people in other households, Yaffe said.
“It does seem very innocent at the time but unfortunately this is how the infection is spread,” said Yaffe. “Enforcement needs to be increased to ensure compliance.”
She noted workplaces have become the second largest source of outbreaks outside the nursing-home sector and a requirement for children in Grade 4 and under to wear masks in classrooms was “under consideration.”
You may have noticed our series Crisis of Care, which examines long-term care homes. The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in long-term care is gutting. Each represents a precious life, a history, a family in grief. ..
There are now 409 COVID patients in hospital intensive care units, almost double the level of a month ago, with 275 on ventilators to help them breathe. There were 35 new ICU admissions Sunday, a level that, if sustained, could soon swamp the province’s 1,756 intensive-care beds.
There are concerns the U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus is circulating more widely even though the province had identified just six cases as of Monday. That figure has not changed in a week.