February 19, 2021, the Ontario government announced its decision to extend the current regional shutdowns and stay-at-home orders for an additional two weeks in the public health units (PHUs) of Toronto, Peel, and North Bay-Parry Sound. As a result, these PHUs will remain subject to current shutdown measures until at least March 8th.
York Region PHU will be permitted to transition out of its current shutdown and back to the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework, at the Red-Control level.
This afternoon, Premier Doug Ford and Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, General Rick Hillier (retired), also provided an updateon the province’s ongoing COVID-19 immunization efforts. Premier Ford and General Hillier, joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, also responded to questions from media.
Earlier today, the government provided an update on its Reconnect Festival and Event Program, through which the government is investing more than $7 million in 87 innovative local and virtual events. This funding is intended to support the festival and event sector during COVID-19 by helping municipalities and organizations deliver safe experiences that allow people to reconnect with their communities. The 2021 Reconnect Festival and Event Program will open on March 17th.
This morning, Ontario launched new health and safety education campaigns which focus on helping small businesses reopen safely. These campaigns include resources with information about preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, which business owners can access at no cost.
Beginning next week, provincial offences officers will be visiting businesses in regions opening in the grey, red, and orange zones of the province’s Framework. Areas of focus include Wellington-Dufferin Guelph, Durham, and Eastern Ontario. Inspections will focus on retail stores, gyms, and personal care services, with the objective of ensuring compliance with public health measures.
Extension of Shutdown and Stay-at-Home Order in Toronto, Peel, and North Bay
This afternoon, the Ontario government announced its decision to extend the current stay-at-home order and shutdown in the PHUs of Toronto, Peel, and North Bay-Parry Sound. Measures in these PHUs will be extended for at least two weeks, until Monday, March 8th, 2021. This announcement is in response to a request made by local medical officers of health in Toronto and Peel earlier this week.
Today’s decision regarding Toronto, Peel, and North Bay-Parry Sound was made in consultation with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and local medical officers of health. The decision was based on key public health indicators, particularly high rates of cases per 100,000 and the increased spread of COVID-19 variants.
The government also announced that York Region PHU would be permitted to transition out of the shutdown and into the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework at the Red-Control level. Lambton PHU will also be moving from the Orange-Restrict level to the Red-Control level of the Framework. These changes will come into effect as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, February 22nd.
Update on COVID-19 Immunization Efforts
Later this afternoon, Premier Ford, General Hillier, and Minister Elliott provided an update on Ontario’s ongoing COVID-19 immunization efforts.
To date, Ontario has administered more than 518,000 doses, including approximately 114,000 doses to long-term care and retirement home staff, approximately 186,000 doses to health care workers, and approximately 167,000 doses to long-term care and retirement home residents.
The province continues to roll out Phase One of its vaccination campaign, which prioritizes residents, staff, and essential caregivers in long-term care, high-risk retirement homes, and First Nations elder care homes. This phase also includes adults in Indigenous communities, patient-facing health care workers, and adults aged 80 and over. General Hillier noted that he expects the province will begin vaccinating adults aged 80 and up (who have not already been vaccinated in a congregate setting) by mid-March. He added that he hopes Ontario will be able to vaccinate 100,000 people in this age group by the end of March.
Ontario is also working with its 34 PHUs to prepare for Phase Two of the immunization campaign. This phase will implement an online tool and customer service desk in order to support appointment booking for mass vaccination clinics. Phase Two is expected to begin in April 2021.
Questions from Media
Expected Immunization Timelines for Other Age Groups
Minister Elliott was asked about plans to vaccinate Ontarians younger than 16 years of age, who are not eligible to receive the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines. In response, Minister Elliott noted that other vaccines which may be used for children are in the process of development and/or approval. She expressed her hope that these vaccines will be available soon.
When asked about expected timelines for immunizing Ontarians in their 60s and 70s, General Hillier responded that the province will likely have sufficient vaccine supply in order to begin vaccinating these age groups by April or May. Hillier noted that younger Ontarians can expect to receive their vaccine “well into summer.”