Before getting into the details of today’s COVID-19 announcement, I want to take a moment to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Today is a day that we reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust and honour the memories of the six million Jewish people who were murdered. However, today we must not just look back – we also must acknowledge that the scourge of antisemitism is on the rise right now around the world, and here in Ontario we must all commit to redoubling our efforts to combat antisemitism and all forms of racism and xenophobia.
We must never and will never forget.
This afternoon, the Ontario government declared the third provincewide state of emergency, that will go into effect starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday (April 8).
You can find the province's vaccine booking portal here.
This state of emergency is slated to last four weeks but can be extended.
As part of the state of emergency, the government has issued a stay-at-home order that requires all Ontarians to remain at home except for essential purposes.
I will be breaking down the new restrictions, but you can read the full press release here.
Essential purposes include:
- Grocery shopping
- Exercising close to home
- Accessing healthcare services
- Getting vaccinated
- Doing work that cannot be done remotely
In addition to the stay-at-home order the province is also implementing restrictions on the non-essential retail sector (with some exclusions), that include moving all shopping to curb-side pick-up and delivery, via appointment.
The retail stores that will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, by appointment are:
- Safety supply stores
- Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies
- Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental
- Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public
- Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft
- Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services
- Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support
For discount and big box stores, in-person retail sales will be restricted to:
- Grocery items
- Pet care supplies
- Household cleaning supplies
- Pharmaceutical items
- Healthcare items
- Personal care items
In the education sector, while Toronto Public Health has ordered schools in Toronto closed, the province is not ordering schools to close provincewide. Nevertheless, they will now be opening up vaccine eligibility to:
- Education workers who provide direct support to students with special needs
- Education workers living or working in ‘hot spot’ areas.
These vaccinations will begin during the April break, and they will start for teachers in Toronto and Peel first, before moving to hot spot areas in other cities across Ontario.
On the note of vaccines, the province has also announced that they will be organizing mobile teams to “administer vaccines in high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based locations, and locations occupied by large employers in hot spot neighbourhoods to individuals aged 18 or over.”
Along with this, as announced yesterday, residents who will be 50 or older in 2021 will be able to register for a vaccine in hot-spot areas – divvied up by postal code.
Click here to see if your postal code is a hot spot.
Frustratingly, left out of this announcement was paid sick leave for the workers of Ontario.
While Premier Ford continues to gaslight Ontarians by claiming that because the federal government has a program, the province does not need one, the fact remains that the federal program (the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit) is woefully inadequate for many workers, and does not provide the same level of protection for workers that guaranteed paid sick days would.
There are a number of key differences between the CRSB and paid sick days, including the cap at $450 a week after taxes, the delay in the distribution of funds, and the cumbersome nature of needing to apply for a program – instead of simply having the money applied to your paycheque.
You can read an analysis of the differences here.
Further, while the Ford government continued to claim today that this issue is just the Opposition playing politics, the reality is that a wide range of stakeholders have called on the province to implement paid sick days for workers, including:
- John Tory
- Patrick Brown
- Ontario Chamber of Commerce
- Ontario Hospitals Association
- Ontario Federation of Labour
- Ontario Medical Association
- Toronto City Council
- Hamilton City Council
- Toronto Star Editorial Board
- Globe and Mail Editorial Board
- Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer
- And more
Finally, I want to just remind everyone to take a moment for self-care in the coming days. The stay-at-home order that we have ahead of us will be difficult, and now is a great time to make a phone call or zoom call to a loved one to check-in. Things are going to be difficult in the coming days, but we’re going to get through this together.