As the province engages with public health experts and frontline partners on what additional measures may be necessary to break trends in increased cases and hospitalizations, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local medical officers of health, is moving six public health regions to new levels per the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework.
Meanwhile, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent is remaining in the Yellow-Protect tier of the framework.
Provincial officials say after assessing trends in key public health indicators, Peel Public Health and Toronto Public Health will remain in the Grey-Lockdown level to be re-assessed on January 4, 2021.
In addition, five public health regions will be moved to levels with stronger public health measures, including moving the City of Hamilton Public Health Services to Grey-Lockdown.
One public health region will be moving to a lower level.
“With public health indicators continuing to worsen in Toronto and Peel, we are making the difficult but necessary decision to extend public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, protect our hospital capacity and safeguard the key services we rely on,” stated Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, in a media release.
“With the first vaccines administered to our frontline health care workers this week, the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day. However now more than ever we are urging everyone to continue following public health measures and advice, especially over the holiday season.”
Provincial officials say in the nearly four weeks since Peel Public Health and Toronto Public Health were moved into Grey-Lockdown, there has been a continued and concerning increase in the public health indicators in both regions.
Peel saw the case rate increase by 8.6 per cent to 199.1 cases per 100,000 people while Toronto saw an increase from 37.5 per cent to 127.5 cases per 100,000 people.
Hospitalizations have risen by 54 per cent in Peel and by 40.9 per cent in Toronto, resulting in delays for surgeries and other procedures at several hospitals.
Positivity rates also remain well above the 2.5 per cent high-alert threshold, at 8.5 per cent in Peel and 5.8 per cent in Toronto, Provincial officials added.
The government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health are actively consulting with local medical officers of health and local communities in these regions to determine what additional measures are required.
In addition, on Friday, December 18, 2020 Premier Doug Ford and Minister Elliott convened an emergency meeting with Dr. Williams and Ontario’s hospital leaders to discuss next steps to address the concerning trends in cases and hospital capacity in our province.
In Hamilton, the number of cases and hospitalizations are trending upwards and further action is required to help stop the spread of the virus.
The case rate increased by 25.8 per cent, to 103.3 cases per 100,000 people and the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region have more than doubled in the last two weeks. In addition, the positivity rate is well above the high alert threshold and is at 4.2 per cent, Provincial officials say.
Based on the latest data, the following public health regions will move from their current level in the framework to the following levels effective Monday, December 21, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. with Peel Public Health and Toronto Public Health remaining in lockdown until at least January 4, 2021:
– City of Hamilton Public Health Services.
– Brant County Health Unit.
– Niagara Region Public Health.
– Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health.
– Timiskaming Health Unit.
– Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
All other public health regions will remain at their current level, including Chatham-Kent and Lambton County.
Visit Ontario.ca/covidresponse for the full list of public health region classifications.
“As the number of new cases in Ontario continue to rise, it is evident additional measures are needed in certain regions to stop the spread of the virus,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a press release.
“The trends in key public health indicators in Peel and Toronto remain concerning and we have made the decision to keep them in the Grey-Lockdown level to ensure the continued safety of communities in the regions. We will continue to work closely with the local medical officers of health across the province.”
The province will continue to monitor local trends of key public health indicators across the province to determine if public health units should stay where they are or be moved into a different level, Provincial officials say.
Public health units will stay in their level for a minimum of 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, at which time, the government will assess the impact of public health measures to determine if the public health unit should stay where they are or be moved to a different level.
As the holiday season approaches, the government is urging all Ontarians to continue to follow all required public health measures and public health advice.
No matter where people live in the province, the safest way to spend the holidays this year is by only celebrating in person with the people you live with and celebrating virtually with everyone else.
People who live alone may have exclusive close contact with one additional household to help prevent feelings of isolation and mitigate against negative mental health impacts.