The Ontario government is adding to the precautions taken last week to protect residents and staff in the province’s long-term care homes.
On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, effective October 16 and until further notice, short-term and temporary absences for social or personal reasons will not be allowed at long-term care homes in areas of the province where there is higher community spread of COVID-19. Only absences for medical or compassionate reasons will be allowed.
The communities where these restrictions apply are:
- City of Ottawa
- Region of Peel
- City of Toronto
“We recognize these changes may be difficult for the residents and families affected,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “But our priority has to be the safety and well-being of the residents and staff in Ontario’s long-term care homes.”
A complete list of homes affected has been posted online. The province will update the list as the areas with higher community spread change. People planning a visit to a long-term care home are advised to contact the home in advance, to make sure the home is free of outbreaks and to get information on the home’s visitor policy and any restrictions.
Direction on safety in long-term care homes will continue to be updated as Ontario’s experience with COVID-19 evolves. The government will continue to make every effort to support the safety and emotional wellbeing of residents and the staff who care for them.
In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Public Health Measures Table, and local medical officers of health and other health experts, the Ontario government is introducing additional targeted public health measures in the Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto public health unit regions. These modified Stage 2 restrictions will be for a minimum of 28 days and reviewed on an ongoing basis.
Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Director of the Institute for Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation and the Dalla Lana Chair of Public Health Policy at the University of Toronto.
Effective Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., these targeted measures are being implemented in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto as a result of their higher than average rates of transmission. Measures under a modified Stage 2 include:
- Reducing limits for all social gatherings and organized public events to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained. The two limits may not be combined for an indoor-outdoor event;
- Prohibiting indoor food and drink service in restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, including nightclubs and food court areas in malls;
- Closing of:
- Indoor gyms and fitness centres (i.e., exercise classes and weight and exercise rooms);
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments;
- Indoor cinemas;
- Performing arts centres and venues;
- Spectator areas in racing venues;
- Interactive exhibits or exhibits with high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, etc.;
- Prohibiting personal care services where face coverings must be removed for the service (e.g. makeup application, beard trimming);
- Reducing the capacity limits for:
- Tour and guide services to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
- Real estate open houses to 10 people indoors, where physical distancing can be maintained.
- In-person teaching and instruction (e.g. cooking class) to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with exemptions for schools, child care centres, universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges, the Ontario Police College, etc.
- Meeting and event spaces to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and
- Limiting team sports to training sessions (no games or scrimmages).
Schools, child care centres, and places of worship will remain open in these communities and must continue to follow the public health measures in place. Before-school and after-school programs will also be exempt from these new restrictions.
Given the extraordinary costs associated with these functions, wedding receptions scheduled for this weekend may proceed under existing public health rules. Effective Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., updated public health measures will apply to wedding receptions, including new gathering limits of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors at event spaces.
In addition to the measures being implemented in the Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto public health unit regions, the Chief Medical Officer of Health is also urging all Ontarians to:
- Limit trips outside of home, except for essential purposes only such as work where it is not possible to work from home, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and outdoor healthy physical activity. In addition, travel to other regions in the province, especially from higher transmission to lower transmission areas, should only be for essential purposes;
- Practise physical distancing of at least two metres with those outside your household;
- Wear a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or where it is mandatory to do so; and
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly; and following gathering limits and rules.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation across the province to advise if and when public health measures or restrictions should be adjusted or tightened.
For additional protection, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.
As these necessary public health measures come at a cost to small businesses, Ontario has planned to and will make $300 million available to assist significantly affected businesses with fixed costs, including property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills.
This support will be provided by the province and will be made available in any region where these measures are necessary. More details will be released in the coming days.
This funding builds on the actions the government has taken to support small businesses throughout the pandemic, including putting in place a temporary moratorium on commercial evictions, making $60 million available for a $1,000 grant for small businesses to offset the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), and exploring options to permanently allow restaurants and bars to include alcohol with food as part of a takeout or delivery order.
The Ontario government is taking immediate action to expand case and contact management to help track, trace and isolate new cases of COVID-19. The province has hired 100 new contact tracers, many of whom are starting work this week, with up to 500 more recruits expected to be hired by mid-November. These new positions are part the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, which dedicates $1.376 billion to enhance and expand testing and contact tracing in the province.
Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
To expedite the onboarding of these additional staffing resources, the government is partnering with Ian Martin, an Ontario-based recruitment firmthat has extensive experience in supplying COVID-19 staffing resources.
Ontario Public Service (OPS) staff are also volunteering for redeployment to provide surge support for contact tracing this fall and winter, and over 600 Statistics Canada employees have been onboarded since July to assist with contact follow-up.
There are currently more than 2,750 case and contact management staff active across all public health units, tracing and managing COVID-19 cases ― up from approximately 1,500 staff in the spring. These 600 new recruits and 600 personnel from Statistics Canada will bring the total number of case and contact management staff to nearly 4,000. The members of this critical and growing workforce are all working to keep Ontarians safe and healthy.
In recent weeks, the province has seen a dramatic rise in the percentage of people with COVID-19, especially in hotspots like Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel. In response, the province is providing an additional 150 staff to the Ottawa area and over 200 staff are being onboarded in Toronto. The province is also working with Peel and other public health units across the province to assist contact tracing efforts through the provincial workforce. Hiring additional contact tracers and case managers and deploying them across Ontario will significantly boost the province’s response to the surge in cases and keep the most vulnerable safe and schools open.
In addition, Ontario has also successfully implemented a centralized Public Health Case and Contact Management (CCM) I&IT System in public health units across the province. This user-friendly system significantly reduces duplication, speeds up processes and allows for more efficient case and contact management work to be completed. Direct integration with the Ontario Laboratory Information System eliminates the need for health unit staff to re-type COVID-19 data into the province’s former integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS). Those who have received a lab test indicating they have COVID-19 can also use CONTACT+, a secure online tool to provide key information and close contacts to their local public health unit. Providing this data will help accelerate case management and contact tracing work.
To support Ontario’s case and contact management strategy, the province is encouraging everyone to download the COVID Alert app, the country’s made-in-Ontario exposure notification app.More than four million Canadians have already downloaded the app to date and nearly 1,000 COVID-19 positive Ontarians have sent anonymous alerts to their close contacts. The more people who have the app, the more effective the province will be at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The best way to fight COVID-19 is to continue to follow public health advice that reduces the risk of transmission and helps keep Ontarians safe.