September 17, 2020
Today Premier Doug Ford announced the launch of a screening tool, for use by parents, students, and educators, to assess COVID-19 symptoms each day before attending school.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott; Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce; President of the Treasury Board, Peter Bethlenfalvy; and Chief Coroner for Ontario, Dr. Dirk Huyer.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
Launch of COVID-19 Screening Tool
This afternoon, Premier Ford announced a new tool to support parents, students, and educators with conducting daily mandatory screening for COVID-19 symptoms, which is required prior to attending school. Use of this free tool will be voluntary and will help users determine whether they or their child should attend school each day. The tool will also guide at-risk individuals to the proper resources.
Premier Ford reiterated that students or staff exhibiting even mild symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home, and asked employers to show understanding and flexibility for parents.
The screening tool protects the privacy of users and does not collect personal health information.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
In response to questions about long lines at COVID-19 assessment centres, Premier Ford reassured Ontarians that the government is working with the private sector to increase the province’s capacity for conducting and processing tests.
Minister Elliott added that the province is working to increase its testing capacity to 50,000 per day in tandem with a corresponding increase in laboratory capacity, so that those tested can receive their results in a timely manner, and so that the province is prepared for an anticipated surge in testing demand during flu season.
Premier Ford also confirmed that the government is not considering restricting testing access to symptomatic people, but added that, once available, testing in retail facilities will be specifically for asymptomatic individuals.
Regional Surges in Toronto, GTA, Ottawa
When asked about the anticipated re-introduction of stricter public health measures in areas of the province experiencing outbreaks, including Toronto, parts of the Greater Toronto Area, and Ottawa, Premier Ford confirmed that Cabinet would be discussing this issue today. He added that there will be “severe fines, the highest in the country” for Ontarians in these areas who ignore public health guidelines.
Hydro Rate Relief
When asked about hydro rates, Premier Ford responded that the government will maintain the current off-peak relief rates for as long as possible.
Today Premier Doug Ford announced that, following “concerning” growth in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario’s large urban areas, the province has lowered the limit for private social gatherings in the public health regions of Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel. Fines for gatherings that exceed permitted limits will also be introduced through amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act.
The Premier also announced the introduction of legislation to freeze residential rent in 2021.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott; Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark; and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
Lowered Gathering Limits in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel
This afternoon, Premier Ford announced that the province is lowering the limits for private social gatherings in the public health regions of Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel. This decision was made in consultation with Dr. Williams, local medical officers of health and municipal leaders, and follows two days this week where the province reported more than 300 new daily cases of COVID-19, driven by outbreaks in these three regions.
Effective tomorrow, September 18 at 12:01 a.m., private social gatherings in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel will be subject to the following capacity limits:
- 25 people for outdoor gatherings (previous limit of 100);
- 10 people for indoor gatherings (previous limit of 50).
The above limits apply to parties, dinners, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks, and other recreational areas. At this time, these limits do not apply to staffed businesses such as movie theatres, restaurants, banquet halls, gyms, and convention centres.
In addition, the government will be amending the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, to support better compliance with public health guidelines. If passed, amendments will:
- Create a new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering that exceeds limits under an order;
- Introduce a minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings.
These penalties for hosting an illegal gathering will apply province-wide. Attendees of such gatherings also risk being fined $750.
Introduction of Legislation to Freeze Residential Rent in 2021
Premier Ford also announced that the government has introduced the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act. If passed, this Act would freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units.
This Act also proposes to change the Commercial Tenancies Act to extend the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenants.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Class Size Limits
Premier Ford was asked why the government has not acted to lower class sizes in schools, in tandem with efforts to restrict the size of private social gatherings. Premier Ford responded that classrooms and private gatherings cannot be compared as schools have a number of precautionary health and safety measures in place, including cohorting, social distancing, mask use, and access to public health nurses.
Province-Wide Gathering Limits
When asked why the government was not lowering gathering limits province-wide, Premier Ford responded that the government is relying on the input of local health officials and mayors who have specifically requested these changes for their region.