COVID-19 Updates:

  • Provincial News

Ontario Supporting COVID-19 Response in High Priority Communities

The Ontario government continues to implement its  High Priority Communities Strategy  to provide targeted supports to 15 communities hardest hit by COVID-19. As part of the strategy, the province is providing $12.5 million to local lead agencies to work in partnership with Ontario Health, public health units, municipalities, and other community partners to help high risk neighbourhoods contain the spread of the virus and access services to better protect individuals and families.  

The province is also investing up to $42 million under the High Priority Communities Strategy to create about 1,500 spaces in approximately 11 COVID-19 isolation centres so people can self-isolate and keep their families and communities safe. The voluntary centres provide a range of wraparound supports and services, including meals, security, transportation, and links to health and social services, free of charge. The strategy will support other populations and communities facing barriers related to the determinants of health across Ontario who are at greater COVID-19 risk (e.g. Black and other racialized populations).

To further help those impacted by COVID-19 and in need of financial assistance, the government is also providing emergency income support to people who are facing a crisis situation and not receiving support from Ontario Works, or the Ontario Disability Support Program. A single individual could receive up to $733 a month in emergency income support.

In addition, more than 160 Community Ambassadors have been engaged and more than 225 are being hired to deliver much-needed targeted outreach and communications to members of these communities. This outreach includes providing contact information and details on financial and isolation supports in multiple languages. In addition, through collaboration with local partners, the province is implementing and expanding multiple testing approaches including the opening of mobile and pop-up clinics and rapid testing. 184 testing sites have been opened and nearly 9,800 PPE kits have been shipped and distributed to community members.

Ontario Extending Stay-at-Home Order across Most of the Province to Save Lives

 In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the government is moving to a regional approach and maintaining the shutdown in the majority of the public health regions in Ontario, including the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures. When it is safe to do so, the province will gradually transition each region from the shutdown measures to a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open (the “Framework”). 

To support the province’s economic recovery, the government has updated the Framework to allow for a safer approach to retail. Limited in-person shopping in Grey-Lockdown zones will be permitted with public health and safety measures, such as limiting capacity to 25 per cent in most retail settings. In addition, public health and safety measures in retail settings will be strengthened for other levels of the Framework. Individuals will also be required to wear a face covering and maintain physical distance when indoors in a business, with limited exceptions.

Other measures include a requirement for individuals to wear a face covering when attending an organized public event or gathering (where permitted) if they are within two metres distance of another individual who is not part of their household (both indoor and outdoor). All other requirements for gatherings and organized public events would be maintained.

Based on the improving local trends of key indicators, including lower transmission of COVID-19, improving hospital capacity, and available public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management, the following three regions will be moving back to the Framework at the Green-Prevent level on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and will no longer be subject to the Stay-at-Home order:

  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health;
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health; and
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit.

Due to the fact that public health trends are improving in some regions faster than others, the current Stay-at-Home order will be amended and individual orders making it applicable to each public health region will be made except for the three above. It is proposed that the Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply to 28 public health regions until Tuesday, February 16, 2021. For Toronto, Peel and York regions, it is proposed that the Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply until Monday, February 22, 2021. Final decisions will be subject to review of the trends in public health indicators at that time.

Recognizing the risk posed by new variants to the province’s pandemic response, Ontario is introducing an “emergency brake” to allow for immediate action if a public health unit region experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed. If this occurs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission.

In addition, the provincial emergency declared under s 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA) will be allowed to terminate at  the end of February 9, 2021. While the provincewide Stay-at-Home order will cease to apply in some regions as of February 10, 2021, everyone is strongly advised to continue to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, minimize travel between areas with different rules, and limit close contacts to their household. Employers in all industries should continue to make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

Enforcement of residential evictions will remain paused in the public health unit regions where the provincial Stay-at-Home order remains in effect. This will ensure people are not forced to leave their homes. In regions where the Stay-at-Home order is lifted, the regular process for residential eviction enforcement will resume.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to consult with public health and other experts, review data, and provide advice to the government on the appropriate and effective measures that are needed to protect the health of Ontarians. Municipalities and local medical officers of health may have additional restrictions or targeted requirements in their region.

In-Person Shopping at Retail Stores Permitted with Public Health and Safety Requirements in Place

Once local trends of key public health indicators have improved, the province’s 34 public health regions will be gradually transitioned back to a strengthened and revised COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open (the “Framework”), with some new and modified measures in place. These measures include updates to allow in-store shopping at non-essential retail stores with additional public health and safety measures in place.

The following measures will be added to of the Framework to protect the health and safety of retail patrons and workers:

Grey-Lockdown Level

  • In person shopping permitted for retail sales, with capacity limits;
  • In addition of the previous restriction of 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores, and pharmacies:
    • 25 per cent capacity limit for all other stores that engage in retail sales to the public, including, big box stores;
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted;
  • Require store capacity limit to be posted publicly;
  • Require businesses and organizations to screen in compliance with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health or other public health official by, among other things:
  • Require individuals to maintain at least two metres of physical distance and wear a face covering, including when attending organized public events and other gatherings, with limited exceptions.

Red-Control Level

  • In person shopping permitted for retail services, with capacity limits;
    • 75 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores, and pharmacies; and
    • 50 per cent capacity limit for all other retail businesses that engage in retail sales to the public, including big box stores;
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted;
  • Require store capacity limit to be posted publicly;
  • Require all retailers and other sectors to have a safety plan and post it;
  • Require businesses and organizations to screen in compliance with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health or other public health official by, among other things:
  • Require individuals to maintain at least two metres of physical distance and wear a face covering, with limited exceptions.

Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, and Orange-Restrict Levels, and Other Sectors

Further changes to measures in the COVID-19 Response Framework (e.g. opening of additional businesses, loosening of public health and workplace measures) will be restricted for at least 28 days following the last public health unit returning to the Framework.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to consult with experts, review data, and provide advice to the government on the appropriate and effective measures that are needed to protect the health of Ontarians.

Ontario Expands Emergency Child Care to More Frontline Workers

While students in many parts of the province are returning or have returned to in-person learning, students in Toronto, York Region and Peel will be returning to class one week later, on February 16, 2021.  During this period of remote learning, our government is supporting these key workers by ensuring their children are well cared for.

This past week, based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we gave parents certainty around the planned return to in-person learning for students across our province. For working families around the province, this means that they will be able to return to work knowing their child’s learning and development is continuing in classrooms safely, with new measures in place to protect students and staff. Learning in class, alongside friends and teachers, is crucial for the mental health, development, and long-term success of students.

New additions to the list of those eligible for emergency child care:

  • In the construction sector: individuals who work for a business that undertakes construction activities or projects and related services, including land surveying and demolition services, that are permitted to be open under section 43 of Schedule 2 of O. Reg. 82/20 of the Reopening Ontario Act.
  • In the transportation sector: employees of a municipal transit agency, Metrolinx or the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, who support a function that cannot be done through remote work arrangements.

Access to emergency child care services in the public health units of York Region, Toronto and Peel will end on Friday, February 12, 2021, in advance of the return to in-person learning on February 16, 2021.

Contact your municipality or municipal service system manager to see if you are eligible for emergency child care.