Toronto, Peel and Ottawa moved into modified Stage 2 as Ford admits that 'all trends are going in the wrong direction'
Published Friday, October 9, 2020 6:34AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 9, 2020 6:28PM EDT
The province is shutting down gyms, movie theatres, and indoor dining at restaurants in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region for the next 28 days, essentially moving the three hard-hit regions into a modified Stage 2.
The new public health restrictions, which were announced by the province on Monday afternoon, come into effect in the three regions on Saturday at 12:01 a.m. and will be in place for 28 days.
In an effort to slow the spread of the virus in the three areas, which have seen a massive surge in new infections over the past two weeks, the province is also closing casinos, bingo halls and conference and convention centres.
There will also be prohibition on indoor sporting games and the maximum number of people allowed to gather in meeting and event spaces will be capped at 10.
“I can’t stress enough how difficult and painful it was to make this decision. My heart just breaks for these folks and I understand what this decision means to each and every one of you,” Premier Doug Ford said during a news conference on Friday afternoon. “I can tell you I didn’t sleep last night. This weighs heavy on me.”
Officials in Toronto, including Mayor John Tory and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, have been lobbying the province to ban indoor dining at bars and restaurants since last Friday but Ford initially resisted, telling reporters earlier this week that he needed “hard evidence” before taking “someone’s livelihood away from them.”
On Friday, however, Ford told reporters that he has now seen that evidence and believes that action to curb the further spread of the virus is necessary.
He said that if he didn’t act now, he would be “negligent.”
“All trends are going in the wrong direction. Left unchecked we risk the worst case scenarios first seen in Italy and New York City (in the spring),” he warned.
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said the decision to close indoor dining should have been made ages ago.
"A delay was never needed, Doug Ford should have acted weeks ago but instead, he has lost control and is now scrambling," he said in a statement.
Some personal care services also banned
As of Tuesday, Oct. 13, wedding receptions in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region will be subject to the new gathering rules of 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.
Interactive exhibits or exhibits with a high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, and landmarks will also be closed.
Food courts in shopping centres can remain open but will be available for take-out only.
Personal care services where face coverings must be removed have also been suspended for the next month.
Schools and places of worship will remain open in the impacted communities.
Ontarians in all regions are also being encouraged to only travel to other parts of the province for essential purposes and limit trips outside of the home.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday afternoon, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said the information supplied today paints a more "worrisome and challenging and dangerous picture" than the health command table presented one week ago.
The province presented modelling data last week that indicated Ontario could see more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by the first half of October.
Ontario recorded 939 new cases on Friday, the highest number of new cases reported in a 24-hour period since the start of the pandemic.
Brown noted that there has been a "dramatic growth" in test positivity rates and the province's curve "continues to increase in terms of its steepness."
"At this point of growth, in the epidemic curve, there is not the opportunity to either test more or contact trace more as a way to supress or control the epidemic," he said.
"At this point it really requires public health interventions to break that chain of transmission and allow the numbers to come back down."
He said the situation outlined today does not translate to all parts of the province and in some regions, the curve has stayed flat.
"In the three or four public health units that have the highest rate of growth, you can see a very, very steep trajectory of these indicators," he said.
"What this tells us is you really don’t want to do anything at a province-level at this point. You do need intervention but it should be more tailored to the level of risk in the public health units that we are looking at."
According to the province's latest epidemiological report, 336 new cases were confirmed in Toronto, 150 were in Peel Region, and 126 were in Ottawa.
Last week, Toronto's top public health official, Dr. Eileen de Villa, requested that the province give the city the power to temporarily ban indoor dining, indoor fitness classes and other indoor sports activities.
An estimated 44 per cent of recent outbreaks in Toronto have been tied to restaurants, bars or entertainment venues.
De Villa has said if additional restrictions aren't put in place quickly, the number of new infections could rapidly rise in Toronto in the coming months.
“I have to see the evidence before I take someone’s livelihood away from them,” he told reporters on Monday.
“I want to exhaust every single avenue before I ruin someone’s life. It is easy to go in there and say I’m just shutting down everything. Show me the evidence, hard, hard evidence.”
Multiple times last week the premier even suggested there were signs that Ontario was "flattening the curve."
Speaking to CP24 earlier on Friday, Mayor John Tory said discussions about possible restrictions have been ongoing for the past several days now.
Tory said the recent projections from the city show that additional restrictions are necessary to prevent a further spike in new infections.
"(The projections show) hugely increased numbers, even over what we are talking about today, of cases that we would be seeing into November, December, into the New Year," the mayor said.
"I think that is something we all want to avoid because that would lead inevitably to some kind of a much broader, longer lockdown, even perhaps more extensive than what we saw in the spring."
While Toronto has advocated for more restrictions, the mayors and medical officers of health in both Peel Region and Ottawa asked the province to keep indoor dining on the table.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie asserted that she did not believe further restrictions were necessary for businesses in the community.
“I cannot stress this enough. At this time we are not seeing transmission in bars, lounges, restaurants or gyms here in Peel,” she said.
When asked why the restrictions were applied uniformly across all three regions, Williams said while there may not be significant transmission of the virus in those settings now, the situation can change quickly.
He said all local public health officials in the impacted regions understood and agreed to the restrictions.
"We've talked to Peel, Ottawa, and Toronto. They all said yes, not no," Williams said.