Tomorrow, Ontario will see a return to lockdown measures in an effort to control rising COVID-19 cases. This virus is ruthless, and fighting this pandemic is not an easy feat. However, it is made so much worse by the Ford government's lack of planning and failure to listen to Ontario citizens. It is also made worse by the fact that this government does not communicate transparently about their plans.
Now we have parents who need to accommodate remote learning into their routine with only a few days’ notice, when we have been begging the Ford’s government for a back-to-school plan. We have numbers that do not truly reflect the amount of COVID-19 cases due to new testing limitations. We have people who will now be waiting for surgeries and health procedures and a lack of support to our health care workers. We have businesses and workers struggling to get by, including our arts and creative community.
I know most of you are mad and frustrated and believe me, I am too.
Here are the changes that come into effect tomorrow, Wednesday, at 12:01 a.m. for at least 21 days (until January 26, 2022), subject to trends in public health and health system indicators. This is a modified version of Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen.
These measures include:
- Reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
- Limiting capacity at organized public events to five people indoors.
- Requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
- Limiting capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites and ceremonies to 50 per cent capacity of the particular room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain 2 metres of physical distance. Social gatherings associated with these services must adhere to the social gathering limits.
- Retail settings, including shopping malls, permitted at 50 per cent capacity. For shopping malls physical distancing will be required in line-ups, loitering will not be permitted, and food courts will be required to close.
- Personal care services permitted at 50 per cent capacity and other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.
- Closing indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions but permitting outdoor spaces to remain open with restrictions.
- Public libraries limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through and delivery is permitted.
- Restricting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on-premise in businesses or settings after 11 p.m. with delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and other liquor stores exempted.
- Closing indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas, rehearsals and recorded performances permitted with restrictions.
- Closing museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy limited to 50 per cent capacity. Boat tours permitted at 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities including gyms, except for athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and select professional and elite amateur sport leagues. Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but with the number of spectators not to exceed 50 per cent occupancy and other requirements.
- All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting January 5 until at least January 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations.
- School buildings would be permitted to open for child care operations, including emergency child care, to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated remotely and for staff who are unable to deliver quality instruction from home.
- During this period of remote learning, free emergency child care will be provided for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers.
Please view the regulation for the full list of mandatory public health and workplace safety measures.
In addition, on January 5, 2022 the Chief Medical Officer of Health will reinstate Directive 2 for hospitals and regulated health professionals, instructing hospitals to pause all non-emergency and non-urgent surgeries and procedures in order to preserve critical care and human resource capacity.
Updated eligibility for PCR testing and case and contact management guidance
On December 30, the provincial government updated its COVID-19 testing and isolation guidelines which will significantly limit who can get tested in the province. Key changes include:
- Symptomatic testing will be available for high-risk individuals, and individuals who work in high-risk settings.
- Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are presumed positive and they should follow isolation and/or self-monitoring guidelines.
- Testing for asymptomatic contacts of cases is generally no longer recommended, except for high-risk contacts/individuals that are part of confirmed or suspected outbreaks in high-risk settings, as recommended by public health.
- Positive rapid antigen tests will no longer require PCR confirmation.
- Based on the latest scientific evidence, individuals with COVID-19 should isolate for five days if they are fully vaccinated or under the age of 12, and if their symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours.
Read the full news release here.
Two memos from Ontario’s Ministry of Education also confirmed that the Ford government will suspend reporting of COVID-19 cases in child care and in schools. The NDP’s Education Critic, Marit Stiles, the Child Care Critic, Bhutila Karpoche, and the NDP leader Andrea Horwath released a statement about this terrifying announcement here.
Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022
I will also continue fighting for our community in these challenging times. For our first newsletter of the year, here is a summary of what I have advocated for in 2021 and what I am already advocating for in 2022.
Finally, a reminder that today is the last day to RSVP to our New Year Check-In happening on Thursday, January 6, at 7 p.m.
In this event, I'll be sharing 2021 highlights but ALSO want to hear from my constituents! What are your hopes for 2022? What are your main areas of concern?
RSVP to [email protected] until midnight. Please include "New Year Check-In" in the subject line!
We'll be meeting over Zoom. For the ones who have already registered, my team will be sending the Zoom link tomorrow.