Top COVID-19 stories and news
Music venues forced to cancel livestream concerts
6:41 pm Live music venues in Ontario are once again being forced to cancel virtual concerts.
Though retailers will be allowed to open during the third lockdown, the four-week shutdown starting on April 3 will see music venues close for non-audience livestream recordings as they did when the stay-at-home order took effect in December.
“Sometimes governments just pick winners and losers and live music venues always seem to come up on the losing end,” Horseshoe and Collective Concerts owner Jeff Cohen tells NOW. “Every time we are proactive and confirm a series of shows, it’s inevitable they will get moved, postponed or cancelled. As both owners and artistic programmers, it’s just uber frustrating. We feel beaten up.”
People 60+ eligible to get vaccinated in Toronto
3:25 pm People aged 60 and up are now eligible to get vaccinated at city-run mass immunization sites in Toronto, Mayor John Tory announced on Thursday.
The city made the request to fill vacant appointments during the Easter long weekend. Earlier today, Ontario public health officials and Premier Doug Ford said vaccination uptake has been slow, especially among eligible people under age 80.
Ford announces four-week province-wide lockdown, outdoor dining prohibited
1:55 pm Premier Doug Ford has officially announced a four-week, province-wide “shutdown” that will begin on April 3 at 12:01 am.
The “emergency brake” means the colour-coded framework will be suspended.
“All 34 public health regions will move into shutdown for a period of four weeks,” Ford said during a briefing at Queen’s Park. “Right now we’re into a third wave of COVID-19. The variants of concern are spreading rapidly. This is a new pandemic.”
Ford noted that intensive care unit admissions are at the highest level the province has seen since the start of the pandemic. He said 70 hospital beds will be set up at the Toronto Congress Centre for “alternate level of care patients” in order to free up beds for COVID-19 patients.
Outdoor dining and outdoor fitness classes, which were recently allowed in grey lockdown zones, will now be prohibited. The measures include:
- Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a 5-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.
- Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures;
- Prohibiting personal care services;
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only;
- Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions;
- Requiring day camps to close; and,
- Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.
Public health officials are advising people to only leave their homes to get food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable people or exercising outdoors with members of their household.
Takeout, drive-through and delivery is still permitted. Schools and child care will continue, and the planned April school break will proceed.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is not imposing a stay-at-home order since the last one had an “ill effect” on children and adults.
Read the full list of shutdown restrictions here.
Small business group calls lockdowns “unconscionable”
1:30 pm The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has blasted provincial lockdowns as “unconscionable.”
In a statement, CFIB president Dan Kelly said governments need to provide more financial aid to businesses and consider rapid testing as an alternative to lockdown measures.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce a four-week province-wide lockdown as highly contagious and deadlier COVID-19 variants are resulting younger people filling up intensive care units.
“It is unconscionable that over a year into the pandemic governments continue to rely almost exclusively on blanket lockdowns,” Kelly said. “The first two shutdowns were devastating with one in six businesses considering permanent closure, for an estimated 181,000 permanent small business closures expected across the country. A third round will only ensure that number grows high.”
Kelly added that Canadian small businesses have taken on an average of $170,000 in COVID-19-related debt and three quarters report it will take more than a year to pay that off.
People age 50+ can get vaccinated in Toronto hot spot
12:35 am Humber River Hospital is now vaccinating adults 50 and older who live nearby. That part of North York is considered a hot spot for COVID-19 cases.
People born in 1971 or earlier who live south of Steeles, north of Eglinton, east of Humber River/Islington and west of Bathurst can book an appointment to get vaccinated at the hospital’s Downsview clinic.
Earlier this week, Mayor John Tory said he is in talks with the province to lower the age of eligibility for vaccinations at city-run mass immunization clinics to 65. The city uses the provincial booking system and needs approval to lower the age within the system to start accepting appointments.
During a modelling data presentation at Queen’s Park this morning, public health officials said vaccines are not reaching the highest-risk populations in Toronto and Peel.
Data shows that 72 per cent of people age 70-74 have yet to be vaccinated with a first dose.
The data also shows the third wave is hitting essential workers the hardest in Toronto and Peel. Fifty-one per cent of growth in variant cases is among that group, officials said.
Ontario expands AstraZeneca vaccine to more pharmacies
12:25 pm The province is making the AstraZeneca vaccine available at 380 more pharmacies.
Ontario launched a pilot program in Toronto and other regions to give the shot to people aged 60 and up.
Starting April 3, the province is lowering the age of eligibility to 55 and up.
“With today’s expansion bringing the total number of pharmacies offering the vaccine to nearly 700 locations, it is expected that this number could reach approximately 1,500 by the end of April,” the government said in a statement.
Additionally, primary care physicians will start offering vaccinations across all 34 public health units.
Read the list of pharmacies here.
Schools to remain open, spring break to proceed: Lecce
11:15 am Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce said today that schools will remain open as in-person learning is “critical for students’ mental health.”
In a statement, Lecce said the province’s chief medical officer of health advised that schools remain safe and that 98.7 per cent of schools have stayed open and 74 per cent have had no COVID-19 cases during the third wave.
On Wednesday, Lecce said that spring break scheduled for the week of April 12 will proceed and students and teachers will return to strengthened safety protocols.
Schools will remain open — critical for students’ mental health & learning.— Stephen Lecce (@Sflecce) April 1, 2021
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has said schools remain safe.
Against third wave & VOCs, strong protocols have kept 98.7% of schools open and 74% without any cases.
Students deserve to be in class.
Ontario reports nearly 2,600 new COVID-19 cases
11 am Ontario reported 2,557 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 deaths on April 1.
Today’s count is the highest in the province since January 22 when 2,662 cases were detected.
The province detected 2,333 new cases on Wednesday, 2,336 on Tuesday and 2,094 on Monday. The seven-day average for new cases is now 2,341.
Ontario completed 62,290 tests in the past 24 hours, marking a 4.1 per cent positivity rate.
An additional 84,060 doses of the vaccine were administered in the past day, and so far, 317,715 people have been fully vaccinated in the province.
There are currently 1,116 hospitalized in Ontario due to the virus, and patients in intensive care have jumped from 396 yesterday to a record high of 433 today.
Of the deaths reported today, one is someone between the ages of 20 and 39 and one is someone between the ages of 40 and 59.
There are an additional 249 school-related cases being reported today, with 1,240 schools reporting at least one case. That’s over 25 per cent of all schools province-wide.
Another 55 B117 cases have been confirmed, along with four more P1 cases.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 352,460 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario and 7,389 people have died.
Ford to announce four-week lockdown: reports
10:30 am Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce a four-week province-wide lockdown this afternoon, several media outlets are reporting.
In order to curb spread of highly contagious variants, Ontario is expected to hit the “emergency brake” and send all regions into the grey lockdown level of the provincial reopening framework effective April 3.
The move would likely mean restrictions currently in place in Toronto and Peel would apply across the province. It’s not clear yet whether grey-level modifications to allow outdoor dining and outdoor fitness classes would still apply.
Public gatherings would be limited to five people, box stores would be limited to 50 per cent capacity and malls and other retail would operate at 25 per cent capacity.
Ford is due to appear at a news conference at Queen’s Park at 1:30 pm alongside the health minister and top public health officials.
New COVID-19 cases in Ontario on April 1
The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:
Toronto = 743
Peel = 484
York Region = 311
Ottawa = 131
City of Hamilton = 119
Durham Region = 107
Halton Region = 82
Simcoe Muskoka District = 73
Middlesex-London = 71
Region of Waterloo = 46
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 43
Eastern Ontario = 37
Windsor-Essex County = 37
Niagara Region = 34
Hastings Prince Edward = 30
Lambton = 30
Thunder Bay District = 27
Brant County = 27
Haldimand-Norfolk = 16
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District = 15
Chatham-Kent = 14
Grey Bruce = 14
Sudbury & Districts = 13
Southwestern = 13
Peterborough = 9
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District = 7
Northwestern = 5