By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned residents on Tuesday afternoon that there are “dark days ahead” when it comes to COVID-19 and as a result, a second state of emergency was declared.
Starting Thursday at 12:01 a.m. a 28-day stay-at-home order will also be issued throughout the entire providence. Residents may only leave their homes for essential trips, exercise, medical visits and essential work. Employees at businesses that are still open are being asked to work from home if they have the ability to do so, although that cannot be enforced.
Enforcement and inspections will increase by provincial and local police, bylaw officers, and workplace inspectors.
According to the latest provincial data, one-third Ontarians are not following public health guidelines, with many gathering and travelling.
Ford said the measures are necessary for the sake of the healthcare system.
“Now, more than ever, we need – I need – you to do your part; stay home, save lives, and protect our health-care system. The system is on the brink of collapse. It’s on the brink of being overwhelmed,” he said. “We’re at levels we’ve never seen before. If we don’t move fast, our hospital ICUs could be overwhelmed by the first week of February.”
Ford also promised to do an “inspection blitz” on big box stores which have seen long line-ups without properly enforcing physical distancing and sanitization guidelines.
Schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York and Hamilton will definitely remain closed to in-person learning until Feb. 10. Chatham-Kent will have to wait until Jan. 20 when Ontario’s chief medical officer of health will assess the direction for the remaining school boards which are closed until Jan. 25.
“We’ve seen increases in transmission among the children. We’re not exactly sure how transmissible that is from them but we are seeing higher levels of children with COVID, and we also know that the children going back to school affects mobility to over 20 per cent,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Outdoor organized public and social gatherings are restricted to a limit of five people. Wearing a facemask or covering is now recommended outdoors when two-metre physical distancing is not possible.
All non-essential retail stores (hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery) can only be open from 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. Stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants are exempt.
Calls for comment from local MPPs Rick Nicholls and Monte McNaughton were not returned as of 4 p.m.