January 7, 2021, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and Coordinator of the Provincial Outbreak Response, Dr. Dirk Huyer, provided an update on COVID-19 trends in Ontario.
Dr. Williams and Dr. Huyer also announced that online learning in Southern Ontario schools will be extended until January 25, due to record high numbers of COVID-19. While Northern Ontario schools will be permitted to resume in-person learning on January 11, other lockdown measures in Northern Ontario will be extended by 14 days, to align with the 28-day lockdown in Southern Ontario. As a result, all public health units will remain in lockdown until at least January 23.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Dr. Williams and Dr. Huyer responded to questions from media.
Update on COVID-19 Trends in Ontario
This afternoon, Dr. Williams and Dr. Huyer provided an update on the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. Key findings include:
- A record high number of COVID-19 cases (3,519) and deaths (89) were reported today.
- Ontario is also observing record numbers of COVID-19 in hospitals. 1,472 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 373 COVID-19 patients are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which has resulted in impacts on elective procedures.
- Ontario’s average number of cases per 100,000 has risen by 23% in one week, from 106 to 129.8.
- 54% of cases are concentrated in Peel, Toronto, and York region. Cases are rising “extensively” in other public health units outside of these hotspots, including in Northern Ontario.
As a result of rising case numbers, and following conversations with Northern Ontario’s seven medical officers of health, Ontario has decided to extend the lockdown in Northern regions of the province by two weeks, to align with lockdown measures in Southern Ontario. The earliest the lockdown will be lifted in the province is January 23.
Extension of Online Learning for Schools
In addition to today’s update on COVID-19 trends, Dr. Williams and Dr. Huyer announced that online learning for elementary students in Southern Ontario would be extended until January 25. Southern Ontario secondary schools are also scheduled to resume in-person learning on January 25.
Elementary and secondary schools in Northern Ontario will be permitted to reopen on January 11, in recognition of lower transmission rates of COVID-19 as well as limited access to reliable Internet service in these regions. “Northern Ontario” regions include:
- District of Algoma Health Unit
- North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
- Northwestern Health Unit
- Porcupine Health Unit
- Sudbury and District Health Unit
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit
- Timiskaming Health Unit
According to Dr. Williams, the objective of delaying a return to in-person learning in Southern Ontario is to ensure that when schools reopen, they can do so permanently for the remainder of the school year.
Child care centres and home-based child care services will remain open to support families during the extended school closure. Ontario is also expanding eligibility for the Ministry of Education’s targeted emergency child care program for a broader number of frontline health and safety workers.
Dr. Williams noted that Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, would comment in the coming days on “enhanced safety measures” in schools when in-person learning resumes. Dr. Williams added that his primary concerns are increased testing and surveillance of the virus and any variants.
Questions from Media
Additional Lockdown Measures
In response to questions about whether Ontario would implement addition lockdown measures, such as the curfew announced yesterday by Quebec, Dr. Williams said that he is taking the advice of the Public Health Measures Table and experts from Public Health Ontario. He added that Ontario is looking at actions taken by other jurisdictions to determine what additional measures could be effective at slowing the spread of the virus.