Niagara, Burlington, Brant and H-N will be in lockdown from Boxing Day until Jan. 23
Brant, Burlington, Haldimand, Norfolk and Niagara to join Hamilton in lockdown on Boxing Day
Hamilton, Brant, Burlington, Haldimand, Norfolk and Niagara will be under lockdown restrictions until Jan. 23.
Of these regions, Hamilton is the only one currently in lockdown, but that will change on Saturday (Boxing Day) when all of Ontario enters a provincial shutdown. The shutdown lasts until Jan. 23 for regions in southern Ontario. All other regions leave the shutdown on Jan. 9.
"The risk of inter-provincial travel and further spread is a real concern. We've seen people are moving from region to region and bringing COVID with them," Premier Doug Ford said Monday.
Ford said the province is waiting until Dec. 26 to give businesses ample time to prepare, and noted that the hardest hit areas like Toronto and Peel Region are already under lockdown orders.
But while the shutdown will begin a day after Christmas, Ford is continuing to urge Ontarians to not gather for the holidays.
"If we fail to take actions now, the consequences will be catastrophic."
Hamilton Centre MPP and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it "never should have come to this."
"Ford is scrambling to catch up, and it's Ontarians that now have to pay the price for that," she said in a statement.
This comes as Hamilton and surrounding regions have seen a recent rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Hamilton sees 40 new cases, 2 new deaths
There are 951 people known to have COVID-19 in Hamilton right now, which is 28 fewer than the number on Sunday.
Hamilton Public Health Services recorded 40 new cases and two deaths on Monday.
Some of the new deaths include a person in their 60s and two people over the age of 80.
There have been 4,925 people infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic, of which 3,792 are resolved.
There are also 57 people with COVID-19 in hospital.
Provincial data shows Hamilton has the fourth highest number of COVID-19 cases per week per 100,000 people at 109 as of Dec. 17. On Monday, that number was at 114.
Hamilton also has the fifth highest COVID-19 test positivity rate at 4.3 per cent (which means 4.3 per cent of all COVID-19 tests in Hamilton are positive). Monday's rate is at 3.9 per cent, but the local medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, has said anything above three per cent impacts the effectiveness of contact-tracing efforts.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger said on Monday this year there will not be any free HSR transportation on New Year's Eve in an effort to only have people use transit for essential purposes.
He added the province has given the city $11 million more to help it stop the spread of the virus.
The mayor's office also told CBC News the province is considering including Hamilton in its "high priority communities" that get extra money and support to increase community outreach, testing and wrap-around support to curb more cases.
Daily COVID-19 cases will be in flux due to data issues
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health, said there may be "fluctuations" in the daily COVID-19 case count over the next few days due to data issues with the provincial information management system.
She explained that the city's computer systems are having issues receiving data from the labs, hindering case follow-up.
Grace Villa outbreak grows to 216 cases
The COVID-19 outbreak at Grace Villa in Hamilton has infected 20 more people, with a total of 216 cases since Nov. 25.
Of those, 139 are residents and 77 are staff. There have been 26 deaths at the long-term care home since the outbreak began. That's five more since Friday.
Richardson said workers from Hamilton Health Sciences who have been overseeing the outbreak are working hard and said staffing is "extremely stretched."
"They're responding as best they can," she said.
She added long-term care homes that are not currently managing outbreaks should ensure their infection, prevention and control measures are up to snuff, remind staff about how to behave to avoid the spread of the virus, and speak with patients about what their wishes are in case they do get sick.
"The biggest message is to be prepared from a staffing perspective," Richardson said.
Loblaw says 11 employees at Franco's No Frills at 640 Queenston Rd. have tested positive for COVID-19, but public health says only eight of these cases are linked to the outbreak at the store.
"At this point, some of those cases are more than two weeks old, and are considered to be resolved. Of the remaining cases, they were last in the store between Dec. 9 to 18," read an email from the Loblaw public relations team.
"As with every single case, we have remained in close contact with the public health team, to ensure our current and enhanced protocols are aligned with any of their recommendations. The store is cleaned frequently, and has had multiple additional deep cleans."
There is also a worker at the Fortinos on Mall Road with the virus.
The person was last in the store on Dec. 16.
Niagara records 300 new cases in 3 days
Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara region's acting medical officer of health, said the move to a province-wide shutdown is "unfortunate" but "necessary." And he said people need to do a few things to make sure it works.
"We all stay home as much as possible, have no unnecessary social contacts outside of our home, and leave home only for essential purposes. If we do that, we'll succeed in bringing COVID-19 under control. If we don't severely curtail our lives, COVID-19 will continue to rise and lockdowns and the harms from them will need to be extended," he said.
"As we head into the holiday season, we implore everyone to begin to practice this change immediately — the earlier we begin to stay home and stop our social activities, literally tens of thousands of cases across Ontario will be prevented, and perhaps hundreds of lives will be saved."
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik said he thinks the provincial lockdown is the "only way to put a hard stop to an escalation in cases that is straining on our health care system and putting lives at risk."
"Let's aim to start 2021 with a reduction in cases that will point the way for a much better year for everyone," he said.
Public health officials in Niagara region recorded 82 COVID-19 cases on Monday.
That means 300 cases have been recorded from Saturday to Monday.
The region has a total of 3,121 cases, including 651 that are active and 2,371 that are resolved. Three more people who had the virus have died, bringing the total number of deaths to 99.
Niagara Health is implementing new restrictions for urgent care and emergency department visitors and support people.
Now, they can only support patients in these units if they are facing life-altering circumstances, experiencing a mental health crisis, at the end of their life or are vulnerable (patients under 18, patients with developmental delays, or those who can't speak and understand English).
"We regret any inconvenience this may cause patients and their loved ones, but these measures are in place for everyone's safety," Derek McNally, Niagara Health's executive vice president of clinical services, said in a media release.
Halton public health expecting shoppers from other regions
Halton's medical officer of health, Dr. Hamidah Meghani, is reminding owners and operators of shopping malls and retail stores to maintain capacity limits and physical distancing in its spaces as it anticipates more shoppers from other regions.
Meghani says owners and operators of a mall or retail store must "manage and actively monitor capacity to maintain adequate physical distancing" in the days before the lockdown.
"Patrons are also responsible for following all rules and protecting each other," she said in a media release.
"This means being patient and courteous when shopping, waiting your turn to select items at grocery stores, following the directional arrows marked in store aisles, staying two metres apart in all lineups and accepting that your trip may take a little longer than usual. Please take your responsibilities seriously and please continue to be kind to one another."
This comes after Lime Ridge Mall in Hamilton extended store hours for the holiday season.
800 cases in Haldimand-Norfolk since March
Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, medical officer of health at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, said he's concerned about exhausting contact tracing efforts as the region sees more COVID-19 cases.
He also supports the province-wide shutdown.
"My feeling is these restrictions are warranted," he said during a media briefing.
Marlene Miranda, general manager of the Health and Social Services Department, also stepped down from her position, but Nesathurai said it won't impact any local vaccine roll out plans.
"They're all formulating a transition plan so there's an organized transfer of responsibilities to other public health and county officials."
Haldimand and Norfolk counties have added 16 more cases of COVID-19 since Sunday to total 800 positive cases since the pandemic started.
Seventy-two of those cases are active, while 690 are recovered.
Thirty-three deaths are considered COVID-related.
There are also three new outbreaks. The outbreaks were declared at Caressant Care in Courtland, Norview Lodge in Simcoe and Beacon Home community residence in Dunnville. Each facility had a staff member test positive for the virus.
7 new COVID-19 cases in Brant
Public health officials recorded seven new COVID-19 cases in Brant and Brantford.
The area has seen 747 confirmed cases throughout the pandemic, including 109 that are active and 633 that are resolved.
Two people with the virus are currently hospitalized and five have died.
St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre in Brantford is also suffering a third outbreak after a staff member was diagnosed with the virus.
2 active cases in Six Nations of the Grand River
Six Nations of the Grand River is reporting two active cases in the territory.
There have been 101 cases there since March. One person has died.
With files from Samantha Craggs and CBC News