Health Experts Say the COVID-19 Outbreak Has Likely Peaked in Ontario

News Release

April 20, 2020

Modelling shows physical distancing still needed to prevent further spread

TORONTO — The Ontario government today released updated COVID-19 modelling, which shows that the enhanced public health measures, including staying home and physically distancing from each other, are working to contain the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. However, the Chief Medical Officer of Health says emergency measures must remain in place to continue reducing the number of cases and deaths.

“The modelling clearly demonstrates that we are making progress in our fight against this deadly virus. That’s due to the actions of all Ontarians, those who are staying home and practising physical distancing, and to the heroic efforts of our frontline health care workers,” said Premier Doug Ford. “But COVID-19 continues to be a clear and present danger, especially to our seniors and most vulnerable citizens. That is why we must continue to follow the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and stay the course in order to keep people safe and healthy.”

Key highlights from the modelling update include:

  • The wave of new community spread cases of COVID-19 in Ontario appears to have peaked.
  • Outbreaks in long-term care and congregate settings continue to be a major concern. Concerted actions are underway to protect vulnerable people in these settings.
  • Ontario is now trending toward a best case scenario rather than a worst case scenario and has significantly improved its standing as compared to March modelling.
  • The province has avoided a significant surge in cases. Total cumulative cases are forecast to be substantially lower than worst case or even moderate case scenarios projected by previous models.
  • While several hundred new cases are identified daily in Ontario, hospitals across the province have not been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak as a result of capacity planning and the public health measures currently in place. The rate of growth day-over-day is declining.
  • To further reduce the number of cases and deaths, it remains critical that Ontarians continue to adhere to public health measures, including staying home and practicing physical distancing if they must go out for essential reasons only.

“The information released today shows early but unmistakable signs that our efforts are working,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “These numbers are not an accident. They are the re sult of months of planning and collective action to stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. However, in order for these projections to become reality, each of us must continue to stay home as much possible and practise physical distancing.”

To enhance protections for residents and staff in long-term care homes, last week Ontario launched the COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes. This action plan will ensure the implementation of critical new measures to prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes. These measures include enhancing and expanding testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; providing public health and infection control expertise; and redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce.

“The new province-wide modelling data are encouraging, but we know that long-term care homes and other congregate settings will track on a different path,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “We will continue to take aggressive action to support our most vulnerable residents and their caregivers.”

QUICK FACTS

  • All Ontarians need to stay home unless absolutely necessary for essential trips, such as accessing health care services, groceries, picking up prescriptions or supporting vulnerable community members with meeting essential needs. If you must leave your home, go alone and stay at least two metres apart from others.
  • Ontario has made improvements to its COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool by expanding its symptom list, addressing the most high risk individuals, and making it more accessible and responsive.
  • Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and protect your health: wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer; sneeze and cough into your sleeve; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; avoid contact with people who are sick; stay home if you are sick.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

number of people permitted to attend unmonitored and private social gatherings reduced province-wide

TORONTO — The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Public Health Measures Table, is reducing limits on the number of people permitted to attend unmonitored and private social gatherings across the entire province. Earlier this week, the government imposed these restrictions in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.

The details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Over the past several days, we have seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province,” said Premier Ford. “Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario. We need everyone to follow the public health rules in order to prevent another provincewide lockdown, and protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.”

Unmonitored and private social gatherings include functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

The new limit on the number of people allowed to attend an unmonitored private social gathering across the province is:

  • 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50); or
  • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100).

Indoor and outdoor events and gatherings cannot be merged together. Gatherings of 35 (25 outdoors and 10 indoors) are not permitted.

“We are taking further action to slow the spread and limit new cases of COVID-19 by reducing the size of private social gatherings across Ontario. This action is based on the increasing case counts that we are seeing,” said Minister Elliott. “As we continue to closely monitor the spread of this virus, we will never hesitate to take further action to protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians.”

The new limits will not apply to events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events. Existing rules, including public health and workplace safety measures for these businesses and facilities, continue to be in effect.

These new limits are effective immediately.

To support better compliance with public health guidelines, amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act would, if passed, establish:

  • A new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds limits under an order.
  • A minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings.
  • Authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the purpose of the new offence.
  • Authority for a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to order the temporary closure of a premises where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any gathering exceeding the number of people allowed is taking place and require individuals to leave the premises.

“It is critical that we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “We are making it easier for communities to keep people safe through a broad array of tools and deterrents including stiffer penalties for organizing social gatherings at private residences that violate the applicable size restrictions. Today’s expansion of gathering restrictions across the province shows that we remain agile in our response to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Ontario.”

The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to advise when public health measures or restrictions can be further loosened or if they need to be tightened.

It remains critically important for everyone to continue following public health advice. This includes:

  • staying home when ill, or keeping your child home from school when ill, even with mild symptoms;
  • practising physical distancing with those outside your household or social circle, or at gatherings;
  • protecting your social circle;
  • wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or where it is mandatory to do so;
  • washing your hands frequently and thoroughly; and
  • adhering to gathering limits and rules.

For additional protection, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

OTTAWA, TORONTO AND PEEL social gatherings reduced to 10 people (indoor) and 25 people (outdoor) due to higher rates of virus transmission

The Ontario government has amended order O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020,  to set a new limit on the permitted number of people to attend social gatherings and organized public events in the Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region public health unit areas that have higher rates of transmission of COVID-19.  This includes functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs, or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks, and other recreational areas.

This amended order sets a new limit on the number of people allowed to attend an unmonitored social gathering or organized public event in three specific regions to:

  • 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50); or
  • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100).

Additionally, to increase compliance with public health guidelines, both within these three regions and across Ontario, amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act would, if passed, create:

  • a new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds limits under an order 
  • a minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings 
  • authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the purpose of the new offence
  • authority for a police officer, special constable, or First Nations constable to order the temporary closure of a premise where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any gathering exceeding the number of people allowed is taking place and require individuals to leave the premises.

Changes to council committees

As Council is at the half way point of its term, there will be changes to the Chairs of Council’s Advisory Committees in November. Affectionately termed the “Cabinet Shuffle”, councillors indicated at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting that they look forward to the new challenges. The next six weeks will give councillors the opportunity to transition out of their current roles, tying up loose ends.

The community volunteers who serve on Council’s Advisory Committees do so with great enthusiasm and professionalism. Thank you for all your contributions to making the Village of Westport our vibrant and strong municipality.

At the Council Meeting on Tuesday November 3, 2020 the following appointments will be made:

Councillor Jackalyn Brady: Chair of Historical Advisory Committee & Chair of Tourism Advisory Committee

Councillor Barry Card: Chair of Parks & Recreation and Harbour Advisory Committee and FOTA

Councillor Rob Roberts: Council’s Liaison with Library Board and Chair of Westport in Bloom Advisory Committee

Councillor Melissa Sullivan: Council’s Liaison wth RVCA and Chair Community (Economic) Development Advisory Committee

Ontario Launches New COVID-19 Screening Tool to Help Protect Students and Staff

News Release

September 16, 2020

New Tool Part of the Government’s Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools

TORONTO

The Ontario government launched a new voluntary interactive screening tool to assist parents, students and staff with the daily assessment of COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors that is required before attending school. The results will let parents, students, and education staff know whether they should attend school each day or guide at-risk individuals to proper resources. This tool is another layer of prevention that the province is using to protect the health and safety of students, staff, and the communities where they live and work.Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board.”We are doing everything we can to keep students and staff safe, and that includes this new screening tool which will help people protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” said Premier Ford. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to screen themselves or their child for symptoms before going to school. If you’re sick or someone in your household is sick, even with mild symptoms, please stay home.”The new easy-to-use tool is voluntary and available for all parents, students and staff to use to help screen for symptoms of illness every day. Users will simply respond to clinician-informed symptom and risk questions, and the tool will then immediately inform users whether it is safe to attend school that day. The tool protects privacy and does not collect any personal health information. The tool was also developed in house by the Ontario Digital Service at no additional cost to taxpayers.”Our government is taking every preventive action to safely reopen our schools, including the introduction of Ontario’s new COVID-19 screening tool for students and staff,” said Minister Lecce. “We have made tremendous progress as a province, which is why we must continue to heighten our vigilance by stepping up screening of each student and staff member before they enter our schools.” Earlier this summer, Ontario unveiled the nation’s most comprehensive plan for the safe reopening of schools in September. The plan is supported by $1.3 billion in critical supports to hire more teachers and increase physical distancing, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), enhance cleaning of schools and school buses, improve ventilation, hire more custodians, and add more school leadership positions and administrative support for virtual schools. The province has also established a mandatory masking policy for grades 4-12, and a robust surveillance and testing strategy to ensure a successful return to classrooms.In addition, local public health units have filled over 530 nursing positions, or 85 per cent, of the additional 625 nursing positions created to help keep students and staff safe. The nurses will be providing rapid-response support to schools and school boards in facilitating public health and preventative measures, including screening, testing, tracing and mitigation strategies. In order to ensure that schools are supported from the start of the school year, several public health units have temporarily redeployed existing nurses while recruitment activities continue.As part of Ontario’s commitment for transparency, and in partnership with the Ministry of Heath and the Ontario Digital Service, the Ministry of Education has also launched a webpage to report COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres. This page will be updated every weekday with the most up-to-date COVID-19 information available, including a summary of cases in schools and licensed child care centres and agencies. This important resource will help parents and guardians know whether a COVID-19 case has been confirmed at their children’s school, and where the numbers come from.”As students across the province return to school, it’s more important than ever that we provide families with the tools and information they need to stay safe and healthy,” said Minister Bethlenfalvy. “Throughout the pandemic, our government has worked swiftly to leverage technology and innovation that puts vital programs and services at your fingertips. This tool is another example of how we’re building a government that works for you.”The government also released the Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools document. This guide was developed in consultation with public health experts, including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and aims to help schools identify and isolate COVID-19 cases, reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and prevent and minimize outbreaks.
 QUICK FACTS
Ontario has committed to making $1.3 billion in COVID-19 resources available to school boards in support of the COVID-19 outbreak, which includes $381 million in federal funding to support provincial back-to-school plans and $50 million in provincial funding for air quality and ventilation in schools. 
For September, the government has delivered over 37 million pieces of PPE to Ontario’s 72 school boards and 10 education authorities, including more than 19.5 million masks, 16 million gloves, 317,000 face shields, 320,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, and 218,000 containers of disinfectant, among other critical supplies.
The Ontario government has named Dr. Dirk Huyer as Coordinator, Provincial Outbreak Response. In this role, he will lead the province’s efforts to prevent and minimize COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of sectors, including the education, child care, agriculture, and health care sectors.
The voluntary screening tool is one of several tools Ontarians should use to stop the spread of COVID-19. Other tools include Ontario’s self-assessment tool, which helps people check whether they have symptoms of COVID-19, and the COVID Alert app, which lets people know if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19—and alert others if they test positive.

Getting Back to Child Care and Schools COVID-SMART

MEDIA RELEASE: Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

September 11, 2020

Health Units have had many questions about COVID-19 from families with children attending child care centres, and families with children and youth in schools. 

We already know that COVID-19 is spread through droplets from a cough, sneeze or singing by someone who is infectious to someone who is close to them. This is a good time to remember that the droplets can land up to two metres away and can survive for a few hours on hard surfaces. Symptoms may look like a cold (sore throat, runny nose, cough, fever, headache) or other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can develop up to 14 days after being infected – usually two to five days.

Public health and school boards are asking parents to use an anonymous online screening tool (also available in printable version) each day to provide direction about what to do if a child is experiencing symptoms. This should become part of your family’s morning routine.  Teachers, school staff and any other individuals entering the school will also be asked to self-screen using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool, and follow its directions.

The Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has been working with the Schools Boards in our regions as well as the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to implement the Ministry of Education Guidelines for child care and school re-opening . The Guidelines are based on the key public health measures that have helped us “flatten the curve” and keep cases low in our communities.  We are promoting that people be COVID – SMART to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in all regions – see a link to what this acronym means here: https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/gatherings-social-circles/ 

Preventing and minimizing transmission is our priority. Our case and contact management team is ready 7 days a week to investigate new positive COVID-19 cases and trace who might have been exposed.  Public Health will be involved at every step and are ready to answer questions and offer guidance related to symptoms and testing.  

Public Health will contact all the families of children/youth, as well as teachers and others who might have had close contact (less than 2 metres) with an individual with COVID-19.  Close contacts are required to stay at home for 14 days, or as directed by public health, and will be informed about testing requirements. The school will also activate infection control procedures such as cleaning and disinfection of the classroom and any other affected areas of the school.  Parents of children/youth will be notified that someone has tested positive for COVID-19 in their child care centre or school. 

If there is an outbreak at the school (two or more cases linked from within the school), public health will determine, through investigation, whether class cancellations or school closure are necessary.  The status of cases and outbreaks will be posted on the websites of schools that have a website, school boards and their respective health units. The LGL area will be listed here: https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/local-cases-and-statistics/schools/

“Timely and transparent communication with families and the school community is important to us,” says Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health for Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. “Providing specific guidance to parents if there is a case in a child care centre or school can help respond to people’s concerns.”  

While the child care and school communities will be kept informed through information on the website, it’s important to remember that public health has an obligation to protect the privacy of any individuals who are suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19.

“We also are committed to respecting children’s privacy and ask that people be kind and resist the temptation to speculate about absences or share rumours about possible cases – especially on social media,” Stewart continues. “Kindness and compassion need to be shown at all times.”

For more information on COVID-19 and the re-opening of schools, please visit the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s website at https://healthunit.org/health-information/covid-19/schools/ or call 1-866-236-0123.

To view your local school board’s return-to-school plan, visit their website:

-30-

Committed to community. Dedicated to progress.