A roundup of coronavirus news in Ontario on March 3
4 pm Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa is asking the province to move the city into the grey lockdown level of the provincial reopening framework on March 8.
“I understand that each course of action comes with benefits and costs,” she told reporters during a press briefing at city hall. “Overall, case counts at present call for a cautious approach that will allow us to reopen and to do so as safely as possible.”
Though York and Halton region are in the red zone, she said given the rapid growth in fast-spreading variant cases, a wider reopening is “not advisable at this time.”
She said 1,468 cases have now screened positive for variants of concern, more than double from the same time last week. To date, 126 cases have confirmed positive as variants. “The variant figure is not what I want to see,” she said.
Moving into the grey zone means some retail will be able to reopen with limited capacity, but indoor dining, gyms and hair salons will remain closed.
Current case counts call for cautious reopening w/additional workplace protections to help prevent further #COVID19 spread. The more we take steps for self-protection, the sooner we can enjoy life more like it was b/f. Here are my remarks from today: https://t.co/6IDyWlbNl9— Dr. Eileen de Villa (@epdevilla) March 3, 2021
Additionally, she is issuing a new section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act for workplaces in active outbreak.
The order aims to shore up the gains the city has made in reducing overall COVID-19 case counts in the past weeks and offer protections to frontline workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, she said.
Under the order, workplaces in active outbreak must ensure use of masks by everyone at all times for the duration of the outbreak; must follow Toronto Public Health instructions pertaining to the investigation into the outbreak; ensure shared spaces are distanced and operating at reduced capacity; designate a staffer to be the primary contact person for TPH to work through; maintain records for every person entering the workplace; and comply with infection prevention control measures and post signage.
She also asked all business to show their support for their employees by implementing these measures voluntarily.
De Villa reported an increase of 290 new cases in Toronto in the past day. There are 285 people in hospital, including 62 in ICUs. The virus has killed five more people in the city in the past 24 hours.
Adam Scotti / PMO
12:30 pm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Ottawa is extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy “at their current levels” to June 5.
“This isn’t the time to pull back on support for workers and for business owners,” he said, adding he hopes the next few months are “the final stretch of the crisis.”
The wage subsidy covers a maximum 75 per cent of payroll for employers and the rent subsidy offers a maximum 65 per cent relief.
Ottawa is also extending Lockdown Support, which offers a maximum of 25 per cent support to hard-hit businesses, for the same period.
12:18 pm Despite calls from mayors to move into the red zone next week, Peel’s top doctor says Ontario should move the region into the grey lockdown level.
“I am recommending we enter the province’s response framework under grey for a two-week period,” Medical Officer of Health Lawrence Loh said during a news conference in Brampton, Mississauga.com reports. “Reopening too quickly risks erasing the gains already made.”
Loh said 100 cases fast-spreading variants have been confirmed in Peel and 600 more test specimens have screened positive and will likely be confirmed.
Peel and Toronto have remained under the stay-at-home order while most other parts of the province have transitioned back to the COVID-19 framework.
The grey level allows some retail to reopen with capacity limits, but indoor dining would continue to be prohibited.
Peel Region reported 169 new cases today, the second highest in the province after Toronto.
11 am Ontario reported 958 new cases of COVID-19 on March 3 as the provincial death toll topped the 7,000 mark.
Another 17 people have died in the past day. To date, 7,014 have died since the pandemic began. Of those deaths, 3,869 were residents of long-term care homes.
Two of today’s deaths were long-term care home residents.
Meanwhile, daily cases have been on a downward trend for the past week.
The province reported 966 new cases on Tuesday, 1,023 on Monday, 1,062 cases on Sunday and 1,185 on Saturday. The seven-day rolling average dropped to 1,084.
Labs completed 52,600, making for a positivity rate of 2.4 per cent, the same as the rate a week ago.
“Locally, there are 249 new cases in Toronto, 164 in Peel and 92 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
There are 668 people in hospital, including 274 patients in intensive care. There are 188 people on ventilators.
Ten more cases of the fast-spreading B117 (UK) variant were confirmed in the past day, bringing the total number of confirmed variants of concern cases in the province to 583.
As of 8 pm last night, the province had administered 754,419 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
10:45 am The province is giving a one-time financial boost to six cultural institutions, including the Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario.
On Wednesday morning, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod said the $27 million will help the institutions “meet their financial obligations, protect jobs and make the repairs and renovations needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The money will cover capital and operating expenditures, as well as “stabilization costs.”
Museums and galleries in Toronto closed when the city went into lockdown last fall. Here are the details of today’s funding announcement:
The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:
Toronto = 249
Peel Region = 164
York Region = 92
Ottawa = 57
City of Hamilton = 47
Region of Waterloo = 46
Durham Region = 41
Thunder Bay = 30
Middlesex-London = 28
Niagara Region = 23
Sudbury & Districts = 22
Windsor-Essex = 21
Halton Region = 20
Peterborough = 18
Simcoe Muskoka = 18
Brant County = 17
Eastern Ontario = 13
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 12
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark = 8
Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington = 5
Renfrew County and District = 5
Southwestern = 5