Doug Ford moves most of the GTHA into red zone as COVID-19 cases surge

Halton, Hamilton and York will join Peel and Toronto in the red zone as Ontario lowers thresholds in the COVID-19 warning system

Ontario is lowering the thresholds in the COVID-19 early warning framework and moving Halton, Hamilton and York into the red zone alongside Peel and Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford’s government is tightening restrictions in response to modelling projection data presented yesterday that predicts Ontario could see around 6,500 new daily infections in an “optimistic” worst-case scenario.

“The updated modelling yesterday made it clear that the situation has changed dramatically since we started implementing our framework six days ago,” Ford said at a Queen’s Park press briefing on Friday.

Calling the COVID-19 projections “alarming,” Ford said people in the red zone should only leave the house for essential reasons such as work, school, medical appointments, groceries and exercise.

“We’re staring down the barrel of another lockdown and I will not hesitate for a second if we have to go further. Our number one priority right now is getting these numbers down,” he said.

“Families should not, I repeat not, visit any other households or allow visitors to their homes. And please avoid social gatherings.”

Ontario reported 1,396 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, down from Thursday’s all-time high of 1,575.

Ford also said he’s asked Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams to take a “hard look” at the current restrictions and report back next week to let him know if further action is necessary.

The lowered thresholds mean Brant County, Durham Region, Eastern Ontario, Niagara Region, Ottawa, Waterloo and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph are moving into the orange level.

Haldimand-Norfolk, Huron Perth, Middlesex-London, Sudbury, Simcoe-Muskoka, Southwestern and Windsor-Essex are moving into the yellow level.

All the jurisdictions will move into the new levels at 12:01 am on Monday, November 16 with the exception of Toronto, which moves into red at 12:01 am on November 14 as previously announced.

Peel moved into the red zone last weekend.

“People are having too much contact with each other,” Williams said during the press conference, adding that events such as large Halloween parties and weddings with no masking or physical distancing have contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Both Toronto and Peel have since announced more measures that add stricter rules around things like private gatherings, casinos, event spaces, bingo halls, indoor dining and fitness classes.

Throughout the past week, public health experts have criticized both Ford and Williams as slow to respond to rising cases.

Earlier this week, the Toronto Star reported Shelley Deeks, a senior official at Public Health Ontario, recommended setting red-level thresholds four times lower than what the government decided on.

Ford has called the report “totally inaccurate.” Today, he defended the decision to lower the thresholds now, saying the modelling data he saw nine days ago is different from yesterday’s data. “I’ve been decisive from day one,” he said.

In the new red-level thresholds, the per capita infection rate drops from 100 cases per 100,000 people to 40 cases per 100,000 people; and the per cent positivity rate drops from 10 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

The early warning system incrementally introduces preventative measures under five colour-coded levels: Prevent (green), Protect (yellow), Restrict (orange), Control (red) and Lockdown, described in a news release as “a measure of last and urgent resort.”

The system lists specific thresholds for public health indicators, such as the virus reproductive number, hospital capacity, testing positivity rates and level of community spread.


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