January 14, 2021, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams and Coordinator of Ontario’s Provincial Outbreak Response, Dr. Dirk Huyer, provided an update on the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario and responded to questions from media.
Earlier, the government issued an emergency order to temporarily pause the enforcement of residential evictions, ensuring that Ontarians who are unable to pay rent are not forced to leave their homes during the provincial declaration of emergency and while the stay-at-home order is in effect. The emergency order will also protect homeowners who are facing evictions due to court orders for possession of their properties.
In addition, the government provided more details today on the “inspection blitz”of big box stores, which Premier Ford alluded to earlier this week.
The government also announced an investment of up to $3 million through the Equine Hardship Program to support horse experience businesses with animal maintenance costs incurred from COVID-19 disruptions. The program will launch on January 18 and will provide businesses offering horse related experiences up to $2,500 per horse, with a maximum of $20,000 total. Funding will cover costs associated with food, water, veterinary care, and farrier services.
Update on COVID-19 in Ontario and Questions from Media
COVID-19 Border Measures
Dr. Williams was asked about whether Ontario planned to strengthen measures at Toronto’s Pearson Airport to prevent the introduction of new COVID-19 cases and variants to the province. In response, Dr. Williams noted that Ontario hoped to partner with the federal government to strengthen protections at Pearson Airport and at Ontario’s land borders.
Decisions re: Extension of Online Learning
Dr. Williams was also asked about the government’s process for determining which regions are safe for schools to resume in-person learning. In response, Dr. Williams explained that all regions which were in lockdown prior to the province-wide measures taking effect on December 26 (Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor-Essex, and Hamilton), have had online learning extended until at least February 10th.
Dr. Williams will recommend to Cabinet, by January 20, whether schools in other Southern Ontario regions will be permitted to resume in-person instruction. He added that his recommendation will be based on the colour-coded levels in the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open framework. Schools in any region which meets the criteria for the “grey” (lockdown) level will be recommended to remain closed beyond the planned reopening date of January 25.
Inspection Blitz in Big Box Stores
Earlier, the government provided additional information on an upcoming “inspection blitz” of big box stores, which was alluded to by Premier Ford earlier this week during the declaration of a provincial emergency.
Beginning this weekend, approximately 50 inspectors from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, as well as local bylaw and police officers, will visit big box stores in Durham, Hamilton, Peel, Toronto and York. Inspectors and law enforcement officers will ensure that workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following all health and safety measures.
Workplace health and safety inspectors will have the authority to ticket supervisors, employees, and patrons who are not in compliance with COVID-19 safety requirements. Inspectors may also temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.