“The risks are greater and the stakes are higher.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford opened the provincial government’s third pandemic-era emergency order announcement with that statement Wednesday afternoon.
A provincewide “stay-at-home” order will go into effect Thursday and will remain in place for at least four weeks.
The emergency order requires Ontarians to remain at home with few exceptions and only for essential reasons such as grocery and pharmacy shopping, accessing healthcare including COVID-19 vaccinations, travelling to essential workplaces for work that cannot be done remotely, and exercising close to home.
“Folks, please, unless it’s for an essential reason, please stay home,” Ford said.
Schools and child-care centres will remain open unless otherwise specified by local public health authorities.
When asked a day ahead of the province’s stay-at-home order announcement for his thoughts, Grey-Bruce’s medical officer of health said, for one thing, he worried about the potential ramifications for those few who may hide away inside their homes now while gathering with families and friends instead of outside as the weather grows warmer.
“From that point of view, a stay-at-home order is counterproductive because we know many people will stay at home, and generally do stay at home, but many other people will stay at home and party with other people, friends, and extended family,” Arra said.
“My understanding from some of the data is the number of cases acquired outdoors is very trivial, less than one per cent. So with the good weather, it makes sense to recommend to people to go outside and do things, don’t do them indoors,” he said.
Arra once again reiterated that above all the “three Ws” – washing your hands, wearing a mask, and watching your distance – are the main tools that exist within everyone’s ability to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regional public health units in Toronto, Peel, and the Guelph area have decided to close schools amid the worsening public health landscape. However, Arra said local schools remain “safer than our homes”.
He noted that recently, out of eight cases either probable or confirmed to be associated with schools, none have resulted in secondary transmission of the virus to date.
“Saying all that, we’ll continue to monitor the situation and during the April break we’ll look at the data at that time and see if something after the break is warranted or not,” Arra said.
“I am optimistic the numbers will head in the right direction, but my optimism is really coupled with a strong recommendation to the public to take this very seriously,” he said.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit reported eight new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday.
Four of the newest cases were reported in The Blue Mountains while single cases were found in Owen Sound, Kincardine, Chatsworth and Grey Highlands.
There are now 56 active cases in the region including 17 active cases involving the more highly transmissible variants of concern.
The health unit’s case and contact management team are now following 383 high-risk close contacts.
Two people with COVID-19 are being treated locally at hospital in Grey-Bruce while two Grey-Bruce residents are currently hospitalized outside of the region. Four Grey-Bruce residents have died with the pandemic virus.
To date, 878 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the region including 84 involving health care workers. Of those, 818 cases are now considered resolved.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit announced Wednesday its local COVID-19 vaccine online-booking system is now live for those in some Phase Two priority populations.
Priority populations are being booked in sequence at this time with only certain groups eligible including those who were already eligible in Phase One, people who live and work in high-risk congregate settings, and those with highest-risk and high-risk chronic conditions as well as their caregivers.
Those that do not have access to the online booking portal are asked to call 1-833-421-1999 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, everyone 60 and older is eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine locally by using the province’s online booking system.
The health unit has now administered 32,248 doses of the vaccine locally.
Public health units reported 3,215 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. It’s the largest number of new cases reported in a single day since mid-January when the pandemic’s second wave was peaking.
Seventeen more people with COVID-19 have died.
More than 500 (504) people with COVID-19 are being treated in intensive care units in Ontario according to provincial data. There were 1,397 COVID-19 patients in the hospital altogether at the time of the latest provincial report.
The seven-day average of new daily cases is now at 2,988.
Among variants of concern, the province reported 126 new cases of B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, one new case of B.1.351 (S. Africa) variant and 14 new cases of P.1 (Brazil) variant. There are now 2,483 lab-confirmed cases involving variants of concern.
The province reported a record-high 104,382 vaccinations were administered Tuesday.