COVID-19: Toronto orders schools to close to in-person learning; Ford to announce more restrictions tomorrow

The latest coronavirus news in Ontario for April 6


Top COVID-19 stories and news

Here’s the list of people eligible for vaccines in Phase 2

Here’s the list of third wave shutdown restrictions in Ontario

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Toronto to close all schools starting Wednesday

2:50 pm Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa has issued a section 22 order to close all schools for in-person learning starting on Wednesday.

Effective at 12:01 am on April 7, elementary and secondary students will transition from in-person to online learning. The order remains in effect until April 18, meaning it will cover next week’s spring break.

The city says fast-spreading variants of concern have increased the transmission of COVID-19, as well as the risk of serious illness and death. In a news release, Toronto Public Health said stronger measures are needed to reverse the third-wave surge in new cases.

“An extension of this order may be considered based on COVID-19 epidemiological data for Toronto,” Toronto Public Health said in a news release. “Licensed child care programs will not be permitted to offer care to children whose schools are required to be closed under the order, with the exception of emergency child care for those who qualify.”


Ford to announce targeted restrictions for GTA tomorrow

1:45 pm Premier Doug Ford said he will announce new, targeted restrictions for Toronto, Peel and York tomorrow.

“We’re going to have further restrictions moving forward very, very quickly,” the premier said during a news conference, adding that Toronto, Peel and York account for 60 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases.

“We’re going to be very clear tomorrow on what we’re hearing from our chief medical officer to secure areas – the three areas,” he said. ‘We’re going to target the big employers in hot areas, we’re going make sure we target neighbourhoods in hot areas.”

Ford also blasted shoppers who visited GTA malls over the weekend as the province entered a four-week shutdown.

“You go by Yorkdale [mall], you couldn’t get a parking space. It was absolutely jam packed,” he said, referencing news coverage of large lineups outside malls. “I’m sorry, but going to the mall is not essential.”

Non-essential retail, including malls, are allowed to remain open with capacity limits under the shutdown rules.

On Tuesday, medical officers of health in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa wrote to the provincial government urging it to issue an immediate stay-at-home order, impose travel restrictions within Ontario, close non-essential retail and limit staffing levels at essential workplaces allowed to remain open.

Ford also announced today that Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccination rollout will begin tomorrow, April 7 at 8 am. Starting at that time, people aged 60 and up can book vaccination appointments province wide. The age of eligibility is already down to 60 for city-run sites in Toronto and down to 50 for hospital-run clinics in hot spot Toronto neighbourhoods.

Additionally, Ford said the province is “finalizing plans to vaccinate workers in settings where we’re seeing outbreaks,” namely in the manufacturing, meat processing and warehouse sector.

Other groups that will be eligible for vaccines province-wide in Phase 2, include:

  • Individuals with specific health conditions which make them at high-risk or at-risk, as well as some primary caregivers;
  • People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers; and,
  • Certain workers who cannot work from home (e.g., elementary / secondary school staff, food manufacturing workers, high-risk and critical retail workers, and more).

The timeline for eligibility will start with people in the “highest risk” category for health conditions, people in high-risk congregate settings and essential workers in “highest risk” hot-spot communities.

Essential workers who do not live in COVID-19 hot spots will be eligible around mid-May, the province said.

Asked why those workers would have to wait until mid-May, Ford said the immediate priorities are elderly people who are not yet vaccinated, as well as essential workers in hot-spot regions, particularly workers for big companies like Amazon and in the manufacturing sector.


Ontario reports 3,065 new COVID-19 cases, eight more deaths

10:45 am Ontario is reporting 3,065 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths on April 6 as intensive care admissions hit a new high.

Labs in the province completed 37,541 tests in the past day, making for a positivity rate of 8.9 per cent, up from 6.2 per cent last Tuesday.

The province confirmed 2,938 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, 3,041 on Sunday, 3,009 on Saturday, 3,089 on Friday, 2,557 on Thursday and 2,333 on Wednesday. The moving seven-day average for new infections is 2,862, up from 2,207 a week ago.

There are now 1,161 patients in hospitals, including a record-high 510 people in intensive care units. Of those ICU patients, 310 are on ventilators.

Today’s deaths included one person between the ages of 40 and 59. To date, the virus has killed 7,458 people in the province.

Toronto logged 955 new cases today and all other regions in the GTHA reported daily increases in the triple-digit range.

Officials have confirmed another 30 cases of the B117 variant and three more cases of the P1 variant, bringing the total number of variant cases to 2,342. To date, nearly 27,200 specimens have screened positive for variants of concern. The variants are confirmed via lengthy, two-part genome testing.

As of 8 pm last night, Ontario had administered 2,621,839 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Of those, more than 600,000 shots have been given in Toronto.


Top doctors in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa call for stay-at-home order

10 am The medical officers of health in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa have written the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams asking him to immediately issue a new stay-at-home order given the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.

The letter notes that “swift and intense” lockdowns have been effective in other countries to control virus transmission while vaccination campaigns rolled out. The letter also urges the province to review all businesses and services deemed essential, identify businesses that can be removed from the list and implement staffing limits of no more than 50 per cent for those permitted to remain open.

Other suggested measures include the closure of non-essential retail, which has been allowed to remain open with capacity limits in the grey lockdown level of the provincial framework and during the province-wide shutdown that began on April 3.

The doctors also calls for travel restrictions between regions within Ontario, the legislation of paid sick days to supplement federal income supports and moving students back to online learning in areas where schools are experiencing significant outbreaks.

The letter is signed by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa, Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Lawrence Loh and Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Vera Etches. They point to data from provincial scientists showing fast-spreading variants of concern are driving a surge in new cases and sending younger people to intensive care units.

Mayor John Tory said he is open to discussing stricter measures with the Ford government.

“I certainly think a discussion of a stay-at-home order or something equivalent to that is warranted,” Mayor John Tory said during a virtual news conference on Tuesday morning. “I also think a discussion of perhaps limiting the capacity of businesses that are open – especially the bigger ones where there have been problems – I think that is a discussion that is warranted.”

New COVID-19 cases in Ontario on April 6

The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:

Toronto = 955

Peel Region = 561

York Region = 320

Ottawa = 165

Niagara Region = 132

City of Hamilton = 128

Halton Region = 119

Durham Region = 101

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 88

Middlesex-London = 82

Region of Waterloo = 71

Simcoe Muskoka = 55

Brant County = 45

Windsor-Essex = 40

Hastings Prince Edward = 35

Sudbury & Districts = 23

Eastern Ontario = 22

Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District = 19

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington = 12

Haldimand-Norfolk = 12

Southwestern = 11

Renfrew County = 8

Grey Bruce = 8

Lambton = 6

Northwestern = 6

Algoma = 5

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