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York Region and Windsor-Essex moving into lockdown to curb COVID-19 spread, Ontario announces

Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 3 p.m. at Queen’s Park. Ford’s office says he will be joined by the minister of health, solicitor general and the head of the province’s vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier.

CBC News is carrying the news conference live above.

Ontario has announced York Region and Windsor-Essex are moving into lockdown effective 12:01 Monday, Dec. 14, as the province tries to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move comes three weeks after Toronto and Peel Region, the other hardest-hit parts of the province, were placed into to the “grey” or lockdown-level zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. The case counts in those regions have continued to climb steadily since.

Also effective Monday, the following regions will move into the red “control” zone: Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

The Eastern Ontario health unit will move into the orange “restrict” zone, while Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District will move into the yellow “protect” zone.

“Over the last week, public health indicators in the York and Windsor regions have continued to trend in the wrong direction and it is evident additional measures are needed to help limit the spread of the virus,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a statement.

Here are the regions moving into new levels of Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions framework, effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14. (Government of Ontario)

What does lockdown look like?

Among the new restrictions for York Region and Windsor-Essex:

  • Only essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies can offer in-person service, at 50% capacity.
  • Non-essential retailers are limited to curbside pickup or delivery only.
  • Restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery and drive-through only.
  • Community centres, arenas, pools, galleries and museums are closed until further notice.
  • Religious services, funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors.
  • In-person fitness activities are suspended.
  • No indoor gatherings with anyone outside a person’s household.
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.
  • Schools remain open.

In a statement Friday, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said he respects the province’s decision but will be advocating for “fairer options” for small businesses, noting almost 50 per cent of cases in York Region are the result of close contact transmission.

Earlier this week, three York Region hospitals issued a joint statement about the “significant increase” in COVID-19 admissions, saying their facilities have reached a “tipping point.”

At the time, Scarpitti called on the province to consider other measures — such as switching big box stores and retail centres to curbside pickup only — before moving York into lockdown. 

The new measures will be in place for a minimum of 28 days or two COVID-19 incubation periods, after which the government will assess if they should be extended. 

45 more deaths reported Friday

The news comes as Ontario reported another 1,848 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 45 more deaths linked to the illness, the most on a single day during the second wave of infections currently afflicting parts of the province.

The new cases include 469 in Toronto, 386 in Peel Region, 205 in York Region and 106 in Windsor-Essex, where religious leaders are ending in-person services in a bid to curb transmission of the virus.

Current restrictions in the region allow religious services to fill 30 per cent room capacity with physical distancing. But more than a dozen church leaders said this morning that they are suspending in-person worship for now.

Public health officials have also ordered Windsor-area schools to move classes online starting Monday.

Other regions that saw double-digit increases in cases were:

  • Durham Region: 91
  • Waterloo Region: 77
  • Ottawa: 59
  • Hamilton: 58
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 54
  • Eastern Ontario: 46
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 39
  • Middlesex-London: 33
  • Niagara Region: 25
  • Southwestern: 19
  • Renfrew County: 19
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark: 17
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington: 13
  • Brant County: 11
  • Huron Perth: 11
  • Thunder Bay: 10

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

The Ministry of Education also reported 151 new cases that are school-related: 125 students and 26 staff members. Some 878 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 18.2 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 11 schools are currently closed because of the illness.

The cases confirmed in today’s provincial report push the seven-day average to 1,872, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic.

There are currently 16,233 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus province-wide.

Ontario’s network of labs processed a record-high 63,051 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 3.2 per cent. Another 69,280 tests are in the queue waiting to be analyzed.

Moreover, while the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 fell to 808 from 829, those being treated in intensive care increased to 235 from 228. Some 121 patients currently require the use of a ventilator.

The 45 additional deaths reported this morning bring Ontario’s official toll to 3,916. Twenty-nine of the deaths were residents of long-term care.

More details on vaccine rollout expected

Meanwhile, Ontario is expected to provide an update later today on its plans to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.

The province has said that it will begin immunizations with its first shipment of 6,000 doses on Tuesday.

Retired general Rick Hiller says the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital will administer the first shots to health-care workers.

An additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected later this month in the province are to be provided to 13 hospitals across Ontario.

Hillier said the province also expects to receive between 30,000 and 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the new year, pending its approval by Health Canada.

The province is also expected to announce additional restrictions for regions in the province today as case counts rise.

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