News & Media

COVID-19 Update: December 21

December 21, 2020

Please see below the most recent updates on the federal and provincial governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal

  • There was no update from the Federal government today.

Provincial

  • Today, Premier Doug Ford was joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Naveed Mohammad, President and CEO, William Osler Health System, to make an announcement on the governments new Covid-19 protocols.
  • A Provincewide Shutdown will go into effect as of Saturday, December 26, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.  The Provincewide Shutdown would put in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures similar to those in jurisdictions already in grey-lockdown.
  • Measures include, but are not limited to:
    • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
    • Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
    • Restricting indoor access to shopping malls. Patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
    • 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. 
    • The current COVID-19 Response Framework will be paused when the Provincewide Shutdown comes into effect. The impacts of these time-limited measures will be evaluated throughout the 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.
  • A copy of the governments briefing deck can be found here.

New School Protocols

  • Transmission in schools remains low, however all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools are to move to teacher-led remote learning when students return from the winter break on January 4, 2021. Schools located in the following Public Health Unit regions can resume in-person instruction on January 11, 2021 for both elementary and secondary students:
    • The District of Algoma Health Unit
    • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
    • Northwestern Health Unit
    • Porcupine Health Unit
    • Sudbury and District Health Unit
    • Thunder Bay District Health Unit
    • Timiskaming Health Unit
  • All other Public Health Unit regions, elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021, and secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25, 2021, at which point they may resume in-person learning.

The New Ontario Small Business Support Grant

  • The government also announced today the launch of the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners to help navigate this challenging period.
  • Eligible small businesses include those that:
    • Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Provincewide Shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020;
    • Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
    • Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
    • More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available here. Further details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021.
  • Businesses that are impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown will also be eligible for the property tax and energy cost rebates. These Ontario Small Business Support Grant rebates will continue to be available for businesses impacted by the Provincewide Shutdown and earlier restrictions. Business can apply for the rebates here.

High Priority Communities Strategy:

  • Today the government further announced that it will put in place a targeted High Priority Communities Strategy. Through this initiative, $12.5 million in funding will be invested to support lead community agencies and community partners in 15 priority neighborhoods in Durham, Peel, Toronto, York and Ottawa. These jurisdictions were selected due to their high-COVID-19 prevalence (current or historical), low testing rates, and sociodemographic barriers to testing and self-isolation. Additional funding of $42 million will also be available to establish isolation centres.
  • The 15 high-needs communities identified to date include:
    • Bramalea
    • Brampton
    • South West Mississauga
    • East Mississauga
    • North West Mississauga
    • North Etobicoke Malton West Woodbridge (Peel)
    • North Etobicoke Malton West Woodbridge (Toronto)
    • East Toronto
    • Scarborough North
    • Scarborough South
    • Western York Region
    • Eastern York Region
    • North York West
    • Durham West
    • Central Ottawa
  • The province will continue to work with Ontario Health and Public Health Units to expand the list of priority communities, which could include Hamilton and Windsor. The government will also continue to monitor the public health trends and engage with local authorities and health experts to assess the need for potential additional initiatives and funding.
  • For more information about the actions included in the strategy they can be found here.

Health Table Update:

  • Today, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, presented updated modelling on the province’s ongoing response to Covid-19.
  • In Ontario cases are continuing to grow, and overall case levels throughout the province are currently twice the “red level”. However, currently the percent positivity of cases is flattening. 
  • The government has looked at data from France and Australia and have determined that “hard lock-downs” of 4-6 weeks have proven a positive result in lowering cases and this type of enforcement could reduce case numbers in Ontario to less than 1,000 per day and become even lower supported by testing and increased contact tracing.
  • Low positivity numbers are crucial to maintaining safe ICU care for non-Covid related illnesses.

Questions from Media:

  • When asked about the delay of the start date of the new lockdown measures the Premier advised that it is important to allow businesses the opportunity to get ready for the lockdown.  He further advised that most of the hot spots are already in the grey-lockdown area.  He pleaded with Ontarians to please stay within their own households and not travel to other regions. 
  • The Premier confirmed today that our province still has the lowest case rate out of all comparable regions and are doing well and the new measures are being put in place to ensure that things do not get out of hand.  He further advised that he will always act on the side of caution and public health.
  • Looking at regions where the numbers are low and are now having to enter into a lockdown, the Premier commented that he is very pleased with the hard work these regions have done to date. Dr. Williams also advised that these measures for the whole province are also being enforced to ensure that areas that are not hot spots become don’t become affected by those travelling from region to region and also to prevent any super spreaders from increasing positivity rates in these regions.  
  • The Premier asked for the support of the people.  He confirmed that he does not believe in a police state, but is relying on the people of Ontario to continue to act in the best interest of the health of the province and continue to follow all public health guidelines.
  • When asked about support for businesses the Premier listed off all the measures that the government has provided to date, along with the new small business grant that was announced today.  He said he’d be there every step of the way to support small business and was optimistic about the future of Ontario’s economy post pandemic.
  • When asked about international arrivals at Pearson Airport, the Premier advised that he has been working towards getting arrival testing up and running at the airport, and mentioned that he has been having trouble with the federal government on this initiative.  He further confirmed that his government will get arrival testing up and running even if they have to go it alone.   
  • Regarding the new strain of Covid-19 that has been identified in the UK, Dr. Williams advised that they are monitoring the strain here in Canada and confirmed that to date, we do not have these cases here in Ontario.
  • Despite the federal government implementing a 72 hour pause on flights from the UK, it was mentioned by media that two flights will be arriving today, to which the Premier showed his frustration with the borders and the lack of testing in our airports and boarders. He confirmed again that testing will be available at the airport and advised that the GTAA is a great partner and they are ready to go, but the hold-up is with the federal government.

Questions from Health Table Update:

  • Ontario is in a challenging and precarious situation.  The province needs measures that will reduce people interacting with others outside their households. 
  • The province is finding that the outbreaks and increased spread are being found anywhere where people congregate, whether it is LTC, shelters or personal gatherings.  
  • The health officials advised that they feel that the restrictions currently in place have had a positive effect in the province maintaining low level growth of spread however noted that further restrictions are required to ensure that future explosive growth does not occur.
  • Health officials advised today that they feel that a 4 week lockdown would be good however noted that the longer the “hard lock-down” occurs the better result when looking at lowering the spread of Covid.

James Barry
Executive Secretary Treasurer
IBEW Construction Council of Ontario

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