Ontario is making changes to its colour-coded COVID-19 system and putting several regions into the red “control” zone which contains more severe restrictions, the province announced Friday.
The change comes after Premier Doug Ford’s government came under fire in recent days for its system being too lenient, while case counts in Ontario surged to record levels.
Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the following cities and regions will move into the red zone of the province’s framework:
Elliott said anyone living in a red (or “control”) region should only leave their home for essential purposes.
The minister also announced the following regions will move to the orange (or “restrict”) zone:
- Eastern Ontario
The changes come into effect on Monday Nov. 16 at 12:01 am, with the exception of Toronto, which moves to the red zone on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
New modelling released Thursday showed the province could face more than 6,000 COVID-19 cases per day by mid-December if it didn’t add more public health restrictions.
Premier Doug Ford had repeatedly defended the province’s plan, even under intense criticism.
The news comes as the province reported 1,396 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter that 440 of those cases were found in Toronto, 440 in Peel and 155 in York Region.
Just over 40,500 tests were completed, she said. Ontario is also reporting 19 deaths on Friday, as well as 1,018 resolved cases.
Other regions that saw double-digit increases included Ottawa at 41, Durham at 41, Hamilton at 43, Halton at 55 and Waterloo at 43.
The province is also reporting 116 school-related cases Friday. There are ongoing outbreaks of the illness in 93 long-term care facilities, with 702 active cases among residents and 478 among staff.
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoids lag times in the provincial system.)
Pressure on ICUs growing, at least 67 people on ventilators
The growing number of cases is also coming with some grim outcomes. More vulnerable seniors are again dying in long-term care homes and intensive care units are seeing more COVID-19 patients, something that might soon force hospitals to limit other surgeries and procedures.
There are also 110 patients in intensive care in the province, according to the latest report from Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), which is distributed daily to critical care stakeholders and shows the most up-to-date numbers provided directly by intensive care units across the province.
That figure was shared on Twitter Friday by Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto. He said patients are now being moved from “overburdened” ICUs to those with more space.
The province’s daily report states 452 people are now hospitalized, an increase of 21 from yesterday. The report says that of those in the ICU, 67 are on a ventilator.
Ford was not part of the modelling news conference, but his office said said later in an email statement that he “won’t hesitate to take action” if Williams recommends it.
So far, Ford has defended his approach to dealing with the pandemic, even as Peel Region and the City of Toronto ratcheted up their responses beyond what’s in the provincial framework. On Thursday, the Ontario NDP called for a two-week “circuit-breaker” shutdown to disrupt COVID-19, something Ford rejected.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath repeated that call on Twitter on Friday morning.
Since they were released, experts have slammed the thresholds for moving cities and regions into “red zone” or “lockdown” as too high. Ford has said he needs to balance controlling the spread of COVID-19 and the needs of the economy.