This is certainly not the way any of us wanted to end the week. The rising spread of COVID-19 variants means we must take stronger measures to limit transmission and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed.
The Stay-at-Home order currently in effect requires everyone to remain at home except for specified purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely.
To increase public compliance with the Stay-at-Home order and stop the spread of COVID-19, amendments to an emergency order (O.Reg 8/21 Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures) have been made that will provide police officers and other provincial offences officers enhanced authority to support the enforcement of Ontario's Stay-at-Home order.
The government also intends to implement the following public health and workplace safety measures effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.:
Prohibit all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone or a caregiver for any member of the household;
Close all non-essential workplaces in the construction sector;
Reduce capacity limits to 25 per cent in all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted. This includes supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers' markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies; and,
Close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, soccer fields, and playgrounds with limited exceptions.
In addition, effective Monday, April 19, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government is limiting the capacity of weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 10 people indoors or outdoors. Social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions are prohibited, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone. Drive-in services will be permitted.
In order to limit the transmission of the variants of concern, the government is also restricting travel into Ontario from the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec with the exception of purposes such as work, health care services, transportation and delivery of goods and services or exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights.
To further support "hot spot" communities where COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted certain neighbourhoods, as part of Phase Two of the government's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the government is committed to dedicating 25 per cent of future vaccine allocations to the 13 public health regions with historic and ongoing high rates of death, hospitalization and COVID-19 transmission.
All other public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail under the provincewide emergency brake (i.e., curbside pick-up and delivery only), will continue to apply.
Throughout the pandemic, Ontario's schools have remained a safe environment for our children. Unfortunately, increased rates of community transmission have put that all at risk. Today, Ontario marked the highest record number of cases reported in the province. It's critical we don't allow that spread occur within our schools, something we've all worked so hard to maintain.
This is why the Ontario government has decided to move students to remote learning following April Break to ensure we're able to flatten this curve together. These variants are affecting younger people and the Government will do everything in its authority to avoid increase cases that will affect them.
We know the drastic mental health impacts this pandemic has had on children, and we’ve invested an additional $52.5M in supports for mental health and special education for this school year, which has supported the hiring of over 200 additional mental health workers in schools, which children still have access too at home. This builds on the doubling of permanent mental health funding to $40M and has made it easier for children to access the help they need.
I have consistently advocated for open schools, and will continue to – but broader community cases and the upward trend must decline in order to keep schools safe for students and staff, and to ensure they reopen for Ontario’s youth.
Due to the difficult but necessary decision to move Ontario schools to remote learning, the Ontario government is once again providing emergency child care for children of frontline health and safety workers, at no cost to parents. This will support school-aged children of frontline workers during the period that elementary schools will offer virtual learning only. It’s Ontario’s way of supporting those most critical during this pandemic — including nurses, grocery store clerks, and first responders.
The service will begin on April 19, and is intended for workers performing critical duties in the province’s continued fight against COVID-19 who cannot work remotely and who have elementary school-aged children. It will once again be delivered by our municipal service delivery partners.
The Ontario government continues to target workplaces to ensure public health and guidelines are followed. This Friday, 200 workplace inspectors supported by provincial offences officers will visit 1,300 construction sites to enforce safety requirements. Officers will also be visiting over 500 workplaces, including big box stores, food processors, manufacturers and warehouses, in Ottawa, Toronto and York Region, which have been identified as hot spots for COVID-19.
Inspectors will be checking that employers understand the risks associated with COVID-19, including how to reduce the spread in their workplace, and that measures and procedures are in place to keep workers safe. They will also be ensuring that workers are practising safe work habits both on the clock and on breaks, checking for physical distancing and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment when required.
Violations may result in fines of up to $750 for individuals and $1,000 for businesses.
Today, the Ontario government announced new funding to Villa Columbo and the Jewish Home for the Aged to support improvements and upgrades to both long-term care homes. It’s part of a $100 million investment to install heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, and make retrofits or repairs to fire sprinkler systems, in 95 long-term care homes across the province.
These investments will help provide care, comfort and safety to residents. This funding is part of a combined federal-provincial investment of up to $1.05 billion to build or renovate health and safety related projects in long-term care, education and municipalities through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream (CVRIS) of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).
My constituency office is open for appointments only. In efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we encourage you to continue to contact us at (416) 781-2395 or email [email protected]. We remain ready to assist.