By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Toronto has new, stricter public health measures effective Saturday, Nov. 14 as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike at record-levels in the city.
It means indoor dining will remain prohibited at restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, meeting and event spaces will be closed, and indoor fitness and exercise classes will remain prohibited, among other measures for 28 days.
It’s a combination of some of the province’s new rules and some of the city’s new rules.
The city’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa announced the new measures on Nov. 10 as Toronto is expected to move into the province’s COVID-19 response framework on Nov. 14 after a month of being under a “modified Stage 2” restriction.
Because Toronto spent October in modified Stage 2, it meant social gatherings were limited, indoor dining was prohibited, and other indoor businesses were restricted. At the end of the month, Premier Doug Ford announced a new COVID-19 response framework consisting of colours and levels.
Under its new framework, the province moved Toronto to its Red-Control level. Other levels include Lockdown, Orange-Restrict, Yellow-Protect, and Green-Prevent.
Public Health Units across Ontario will be placed in a level depending on the severity of COVID-19 cases.
So what does it all mean?
Starting Nov. 14, residents in Toronto will have to follow provincial rules in accordance with the Red-Control level, and additional rules legislated by the city’s medical officer of health under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
In essence, while the province’s rules included some restrictions on social gatherings and indoor dining, Dr. de Villa believes the city needed more public health measures.
“COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate that we haven’t seen before in our city,” she said. “While we’ve seen some progress with the temporary restrictions that were imposed last month, more action is required now to protect the people of Toronto from rampant virus spread.”
“These decisions aren’t ones I take lightly, however, in my professional opinion they are needed to reduce virus spread, save lives, protect our health system for those who need it most, and mitigate broader health, social, and economic impacts,” Dr. de Villa added.
And these are new COVID-19 rules, effective Nov. 14, lasting for 28 days:
- Social gatherings should only be with those you live with and/or one or two essential supports
- Restrict close contacts only to those you live with and your essential supports
- Limit in-person activities outside your home to essential activities only – going to work or school, health care, shopping for your neighbourhood and health needs, and getting exercise and physical activity.
- Businesses and workplaces should implement work from home wherever possible
- Businesses should review their HVAC systems to ensure they are in good working order
- Workplaces should appoint a compliance officer to ensure implementation of occupational health and safety and infection prevention and control measures
- Indoor dining will remain closed
- Indoor fitness classes are not permitted
- Meeting and event spaces will remain closed
- In malls, patrons should not be permitted to consume food and drink while walking through malls
- Casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments will remain closed
The measures will be enforced under Section 22 and the Province’s Reopening Ontario Act.
On Nov. 12, Ontario reported 1,575 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 deaths. Toronto reported 472 of those cases and its neighbours Peel and York reported 448 and 155 respectively.
Toronto had its highest daily case count on Nov. 10 with 533 infections. On Remembrance Day, the city reported 384 cases.
From Oct. 25 to Nov. 6, there have been 209 COVID-19 outbreaks declared in the city including 19 in long-term care homes, including a significantly high caseload at Main Street Terrace here in East Toronto.
The city has also seen an 18 per cent increase of COVID-19 patients in hospitals over the two-week period.
There are 3,987 active cases of COVID-19 in the city as of Nov. 12. Since March, 1,404 people have died from the disease in Toronto.
In addition to the legislated measures above, Dr. de Villa strongly recommends residents restrict contact with people in their household only.
“Our focus remains on saving lives, on protecting the health of our residents, especially our most vulnerable residents in long-term care homes and schools, and keeping our healthcare system from being overwhelmed,” Mayor John Tory said when the measures were announced.
“We need your help right now to do just that,” he added.
But on the ground, it’s hitting local businesses harder than ever after months of severe economic challenges in the face of the pandemic.
The many restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, fitness centres, and other establishments on the Danforth, Leslieville, the Beach, and surrounding communities in East Toronto are facing yet another month of crippling restrictions after 28 days in modified Stage 2.
“This has to be one of the hardest decisions Dr. de Villa’s made so far,” Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford said. “The latest measures will create more of an impact on our local restaurants who won’t be able to open for indoor dining as we were hoping this weekend.”
“I’m speaking to the owners of many of these businesses regularly. With stricter measures, they simply cannot generate any meaningful revenue. I also have serious concerns about so many other businesses who will be affected including yoga studios, gyms, and many other indoor recreation spaces,” he added.
While acknowledging the severity of the pandemic and a need to reduce the number of daily cases, Bradford noted it’s time for “governments at all levels” to step up and “expand their support to keep our mom and pops afloat and our Main Streets healthy.”
More details on the province’s new COVID-19 response framework are available at https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open
More details about COVID-19 in the city and its new public health measures can be found at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.
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