Ontario Declares Second State-of-Emergency, Issuing Stay-at-Home Order Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Premier Doug Ford announced on Tuesday that the state of emergency will be in effect for at least 28 days

On Tuesday afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will be entering a second state of emergency effective immediately and expected to remain in place for at least 28 days.

“Our province is in crisis,” Premier Doug Ford said during his press conference on Tuesday. “The system is on the brink of collapse. It’s on the brink of being overwhelmed.”

As a result of this, the Ontario government has announced a “Stay-at-Home” order that will be going into effect on Thursday, January 14, 2021, at 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time.

“Under this order, everyone must stay home and only go out for essential trips to pick up groceries, or go to medical appointments,” Premier Ford said during his press conference from Queen’s Park, adding that walking pets or going for walks is still permitted.

The province has also announced that schools in the Windsor-Essex, Peel Region, Toronto, York, and Hamilton public health units will not be returning to in-person classes until February 10th as Ontario’s Health Minister and Deputy Premier, Christine Elliot explained that “schools in hotspots may not resume”.

Additional Public Health Restrictions

Between today, when the state of emergency has gone into effect, and this Thursday, the province has announced it will also be enacting the following measures amid the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions.
  • People are required to wear a mask or face-covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

“Despite our best efforts, COVID-19 is continuing to spread in our communities, our hospitals, our long-term care homes, and our workplaces. We are continuing to see concerning trends across the province, including a tragic number of deaths,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“We have made great strides in vaccinating tens of thousands of Ontarians, and we can’t let these efforts go to waste. Urgent action is required to break this deadly trend of transmission, ensure people stay home, and save lives.”

New Enforcement Measures

In a government news statement released on Tuesday, the province will “provide authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order”.

According to Premier Ford, enforcement and inspection will be increased and in inspection blitz at big-box stores will begin in the coming days with enforcement expected to continue for as long as needed “but ultimately from day one, we’ve been counting on people to do the right thing”.

“If individuals, employees, and corporations in retail settings are found not complying with an order, enforcement personnel have the authority to issue a fine,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones added.

“If people are found not complying with these orders, they will be subject to fines and prosecution. Penalties may include up to a year in jail.”

Premier Ford said vaccines will eventually provide relief for the province, particularly when vaccinations are expanded in April, May, and June, but until then there needs to be “a little bit of a runway.”

Ontario’s Latest Model Reveals Province is At a “Dangerous Point”

New modelling released Tuesday shows if Ontarians don’t significantly reduce their contact with others during the pandemic, the province’s health system will become overwhelmed and deaths will exceed first-wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect.

“We’re at a dangerous point,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, at a morning briefing.

There are now cases of COVID-19 in every region of Ontario, Dr. Brown said, and the province’s hospitals are facing a potentially deadly influx of patients.

“The growth of the pandemic is particularly acute right now,” he added, noting that increases in new daily cases is above seven percent “on our worst days,” well into worst-case scenario territory for the outlook of the illness in the province.

The revised modelling suggests that despite restrictions put in place last month, mobility and contacts between people have not decreased in Ontario. Survey data shows a majority of people are trying to limit the spread of the virus by following health advice, but case numbers will not go down until more people follow that example, Dr. Brown said.

Modellers also warned that patients with COVID-19 now occupy more than 400 ICU beds in Ontario, causing surgeries and other procedures to be delayed or cancelled, which will lead to “real consequences for health.”

Brown said that currently, about one-quarter of Ontario’s hospitals have no ICU capacity left, while another quarter have only one or two beds available at any given time. The hospitals with no or very limited ICU capacity are spread out throughout the province, he added.

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