The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Today, in response to evidence presented by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, the Province of Ontario announced Toronto will remain in the Shutdown Zone under the provincial Lockdown Regulation and subject to the Stay-at-Home Order until at least March 9. The City supports the Province’s decision to extend the current orders to protect the healthcare system and save lives.
On February 13, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence C. Loh wrote to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health to request a two-week extension of the Lockdown Regulation-Shutdown Zone and Stay-at-Home Order in Toronto and Peel. For Dr. de Villa, the request stemmed from significant concern around new COVID-19 variants of concern that are appearing in settings across Toronto. Variants have now been identified in long-term care homes, hospitals, a shelter and a meat packing plant.
A variant of concern is a mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that has been reported to spread more easily and may affect the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Research has recently shown that some variants, such as the B.1.1.7 strain that originated in the United Kingdom and is now present in Toronto, have been linked to increased risk of hospitalization and death. The extension of the shutdown will allow public health officials to focus on monitoring the new variants of concern in the city.
With the Stay-at-Home Order extended to at least March 9, the City continues to ask all people to respect the goal of the COVID-19 regulations. The intention is for people to stay home as much as possible in order to make spreading COVID-19 impossible. Organized public events or social gatherings remain extremely discouraged and indoor gatherings with people outside your household and outdoor gatherings of five or more people from different households are prohibited. Provincial offences continue to include prohibitions against any person using an indoor or outdoor recreational facility that is required to be closed and any person attending a business or place that is required to be closed, with very limited exceptions. The City’s “Dos” and “Don’ts” guide lists recommended and mandatory public health measures to explain some of what is and is not permitted under the provincial Shutdown Zone. The guide can be found at www.toronto.ca/lockdownguide.
Since the start of the pandemic there have been a total of 94,231 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 452 new cases today. There have been 68 cases that have been confirmed with a variant of concern, and 348 cases that have screened positive for a mutation. There are 362 people hospitalized. To date, there have been 2,597 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. In total, 87,569 people have recovered. Case status data can be found on the City’s reporting platform: www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-latest-city-of-toronto-news/covid-19-status-of-cases-in-toronto/.
“I want to thank Premier Ford, his cabinet, and provincial officials for listening to our public health professionals and extending the Stay-at-Home Order in Toronto. Given the real concern around COVID-19 variants, this is the right thing to do right now to try to stop a third wave and a third lockdown. Toronto Public Health under the leadership of Dr. de Villa have made it clear that we need more time to ensure that we can reopen safely. I encourage all Toronto residents to keep following the public health advice so that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and get through this difficult period.”
- Mayor John Tory
“This is the right move for Toronto at this time and I am grateful the Province supported the request for it. Variants of concern are emerging steadily in the city. These variants have caused exploding infection rates, more loss of life and overwhelmed health care systems and healthcare workers in other cities and countries. We need to understand what the impact of the variants will be in Toronto and this extension creates a window to do that. As individuals it is extremely important to keep apart as much as possible in the next few weeks, which really will limit spread. More data and distance between people are the two things we need most in the next few weeks.”
- Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health
“I want to thank the Ontario Government for their response. With new, highly-transmissible variants of concern identified in our city, we can't afford to let our guard down. Right now, we must do everything we can to prevent a third wave of this pandemic, and that means scaling up public health measures, not scaling back. That's how we protect people, save lives, and get to a place where businesses and our city can reopen safely.”
- Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health