This afternoon, the Premier announced further restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have seen data modeling that shows cases climbing to over 30,000 cases a day as of early June. Despite existing restrictions, Ontario could still see cases surpassing 10,000 per day. To that end, the Province is extending a province-wide stay-at-home order for an additional two weeks beyond its current end date of May 5.
I know that is disheartening to hear. In Toronto, we have been in the Province’s Lockdown framework for over 100 days and we are all frustrated. It is critical that we remain vigilant. Our hospitals and ICUs are beyond capacity. The variants we are seeing in this third wave are relentless, more contagious, and continue to affect younger people.
Beginning Monday, there will be further public health restrictions, including checkpoints along the Quebec and Manitoba borders to prevent travel into and out of Ontario. Other measures include shutting down non-essential construction at places like shopping centres and office towers as well as closing all outdoor activities such as golf, basketball, and playgrounds.
As of midnight tonight, outdoor gatherings will be restricted to members of the same household and limiting capacity at businesses such as big-box retailers and grocery stores to 25%. If you live alone, you may gather with one other household. Any gatherings at places of worship, including weddings and funerals, will be limited to 10 people indoors and outdoors.
Lastly, the Province of Ontario has announced extraordinary new police measures that empower police with the right to stop anyone on the street or in their vehicle to ask why they are not at home and ask for their residence. If residents do not comply, they may be subject to a ticket of $750.
Instead of protecting essential workers with sick paid leave days, Ford is policing kids in playgrounds. Instead of closing non-essential workplaces, he is empowering police officers to arbitrarily stop the employees necessary to staff them. I am also very concerned about how these strong powers will be deployed against Toronto residents who are unhoused or those in the BIPOC community.
The Province has indicated that it will be directing 25% of its vaccine supply to 13 hard-hit regions, particularly across the Greater Toronto Area. This is welcome, but the Province’s own Science Advisory Table has said repeatedly it is too late to rely on vaccines to make a meaningful impact on the number of COVID-19 cases.
There is a clear need for much stricter public health measures that target those areas where we know the virus is spreading - namely workplaces. Despite several calls from City Council, Toronto Public Health, and their own health experts, the Province has made no enhancements to the federal sick-pay program. Additionally, they’ve made no change to manufacturing or warehouses where the spread of the virus has been prevalent.
It is clear that we are facing an incredible challenge. We continue to see a vaccine supply shortage and public health partners can not keep up with the virus spread. This is a frightening scenario, but despite staying apart, we will manage together. I must urge you to stay home unless it’s an essential trip. Please when you do leave your home, wear a mask and practice physical distancing.
These days have been hard. Please continue to be kind to one another and know you’re not alone. If you need them, I have a list of mental health resources available on my website.