Ontario broadcasts emergency stay-at-home alert as province records 3,326 new COVID-19 cases
Province temporarily pausing evictions, launching big-box store enforcement blitz in GTHA
The Ontario government sent an emergency alert Thursday morning reminding residents that the stay-at-home order announced earlier this week is now in effect.
"Only leave home for essential purposes such as food, healthcare, exercise or work. It's the law. Stay home, stay safe, save lives," the alert, transmitted shortly after 10 a.m. ET, read.
The Solicitor General's office said the alert was sent to all cell networks in the province, as well as broadcast on television and radio.
The stay-at-home order is part of a series of new measures recently implemented by the province in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The illness threatens to overwhelm Ontario's health-care network, revised modelling published this week suggests.
It was the government's latest attempt to communicate the new restrictions, which have been a source of confusion and speculation throughout the week.
Peel Regional Police issued a tweet after the alert went out, saying 911 operators are "overwhelmed" with calls asking about the stay-at-home order.
"For your COVID-related questions, please call 311 or click on the link below to assist you," police said.
The province has said there's no set definition for what is "essential" because everyone has their own unique circumstances and regional considerations.
Premier Doug Ford urged people to use their "best judgment" in deciding whether to go out.
Also today, the provincial government put a temporary pause on residential evictions.
The Landlord and Tenant Board will continue to hear eviction applications and issue orders during the pause, but the enforcement of eviction orders will be postponed, except in urgent situations — such as for illegal activity, the province said.
The pause will remain in place for the remainder of the state of emergency, which began on Tuesday this week and will last for at least 28 days.
'Big-box blitz' this weekend
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development said it plans to launch a "big-box blitz" enforcement effort this weekend, with 50 inspectors checking compliance with public health restrictions at major retailers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The inspectors will be joined by local bylaw and police officers, and have recently been invested with the authority to fine individuals — both employees and customers — up to $750 for failing to wear masks properly and physically distance.
Inspectors will also be checking to ensure that big-box retailers are actively maintaining capacity at a maximum of 25 per cent, said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton at a morning news conference.
"If these conditions are not met, I will not hesitate to shut down any big-box store anywhere in this province," McNaughton said.
Inspectors also have the power to temporarily close locations and disperse groups of more than five people, he added.
The enforcement will be focused on Toronto, Hamilton, Peel Region, York Region and Durham Region.
McNaughton also suggested that there are a number of ongoing workplace investigations in the manufacturing, warehousing and food processing sectors — all of which have been linked to COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario. He said the results of those investigations could be made public in the coming days and weeks.
62 more COVID-19-linked deaths
Meanwhile, Ontario reported another 3,326 cases of COVID-19 and 62 more deaths of people with the illness today.
The new cases include 968 in Toronto, 572 in Peel Region, 357 in York Region and 268 in Windsor-Essex.
Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were:
- Niagara Region: 165
- Ottawa: 144
- Hamilton: 107
- Middlesex-London: 102
- Waterloo Region: 100
- Durham Region: 93
- Halton Region: 85
- Simcoe Muskoka: 80
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 57
- Eastern Ontario: 39
- Brant County: 29
- Huron-Perth: 29
- Lambton: 20
- Thunder Bay: 19
- Southwestern: 18
- Chatham-Kent: 17
- Grey County: 11
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)
The seven-day average of new daily cases stands at 3,452.
There are currently 29,307 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide. The number of active cases dropped for a third straight day, after weeks of increases.
A total of 1,657 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals. Of those, 388 were being treated in intensive care and 280 required a ventilator to breathe.
"That continues to be of great concern to us, to the impacts on our health system," Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Thursday.
Ontario's network of labs processed 71,169 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. Another 66,940 samples are in the queue to be completed.
The 62 additional deaths recorded today push the official toll to 5,189.
The province said it administered 14,237 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, for a total of 159,021 in Ontario since the immunization campaign began in December. A total of 13,293 people have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
With files from Lucas Powers and The Canadian Press