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COVID-19 in Canada: Ontario 'staring down the barrel of a lockdown'; Dr. Tam stresses that there may be more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases a day

Elisabetta Bianchini
·6-min read

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Ontario lower threshold in COVID-19 framework

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ontario is “staring down the barrel of another lockdown” as the provincial government announced changes to the COVID-19 response framework.

The new threshold for regions to move into the Red-Control level includes case numbers greater or equal to 40 cases per 100,000, instead of the previous 100 cases per 100,00. The test positivity rate must now be equal to or greater than 2.5 per cent, instead of 10 per cent.

For the Orange-Restrict level, case numbers must reach between 25 to 29.9 cases per 100,000 and test positivity between 1.3 and 2.4 per cent. The threshold for less restrictive levels have also been lowered accordingly.

Based on the new framework, this is where various regions across Ontario stand:

Red-Control:

  • Hamilton Public Health Services

  • Halton Region Public Health

  • Toronto Public Health

  • York Region Public Health

Orange-Restrict:

  • Brant County Health Unit

  • Durham Region Health Department

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit

  • Niagara Region Public Health

  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health

  • Region of Waterloo Public Health

Yellow-Protect:

  • Huron Perth Public Health

  • Middlesex-London Health Unit

  • Public Health Sudbury & Districts

  • Southwestern Public Health

  • Huron Perth Public Health

  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Toronto will move into the Red-Control level on Monday, as previously planned, while the other regions will enter their new restriction level on Monday.

“If we don’t take action, if we don’t change course in a big way, Ontario’s on track for 6,500 new cases per day,” Ford said, referring to the modelling information shared on Thursday. “The impact on our hospitals would be absolutely devastating.”

“As premier, I can’t accept and I won’t accept that.”

Ford maintained that if a full lockdown becomes a recommendation from the provincial health table under Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, the premier “will lock down quicker than you can blink your eyes.”

Dr. Williams indicated at the Friday press conference that a number of public health units are managing cases related to Halloween parties, weddings and other gatherings where public health measures were not followed.

“People are having too much contact with each other,” he said.

COVID-19 outlook is ‘not looking good’ ahead of December celebrations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed at a press conference on Friday that he has warned the premiers across Canada that federal resources are not “infinite” when it comes to support for managing COVID-19.

“We are there to support the provinces as they handle this pandemic but there is a threshold beyond which, when the cases spike too much, we might have to make really difficult choices about where to deploy the limited resources we have,” Trudeau said. “We need to get things under control right now.”

“The federal government can add more but not an unlimited amount. That’s why we all have to make sure we do not get to the kinds of spikes that are being projected.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stressed that with current projections estimating that Canada could see more than 10,000 daily COVID-19 daily cases by December, it’s critically important that people across the country reduce their contacts.

“From where I’m sitting, anywhere outside of the Atlantic bubble...and the territories, fires are burning in so many different areas,” Dr. Tam said.

She added that right now, the prospect of celebrating the holiday with in-person gatherings with family and friends is “not looking good.”

“Unfortunately, the virus will take any and every opportunity to spread so our best protection for ourselves, our family and our community is to consistently maintain public health practices and avoid settings and situations that increase the risk for spread,” Dr. Tam said.

The prime minister stressed that provinces need to make the “right decisions” around the best rules to limit COVID-19 transmission in their region.

“Moving quickly and firmly is far better than delaying and hoping that individual behaviour will itself bend the curve,” Trudeau said.

“But yes, individual behaviour is important. Even if you don’t know anyone who’s gotten COVID, you can’t say ‘OK what I’ve done so far is working, I’m tired of this, I just want to see some friends,’ because what we’ve done has worked until suddenly, it doesn’t work anymore for you or your family.”

Students from Nova Scotia, studying outside of the Atlantic Canada encouraged to not come home for the holidays

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, has expressed concerns about COVID-19 cases related to travel outside of the Atlantic bubble. At a press conference on Friday, he indicated that even students who study outside of Maritimes may not be able to come home to the area for the holidays.

“For families that have students that are studying outside of the bubble, that might be thinking about coming home for the holiday, as tough as it is to say the best choice would be for them to actually stay where they’re at,” Dr. Strang said. “If they come back, you’re going to have to think about that for the household.”

“It’s about our collective wellbeing and that we need to think about everybody in Nova Scotia together.”

This comes as Nova Scotia reported one new COVID-19 case is in the Northern Zone on Friday, related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. There are currently 19 active cases in the province.

Ontario’s daily COVID-19 dips under 1,400

Ontario reported 1,396 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 440 new cases in Toronto, 440 in Peel and 155 in York Region.

The province confirmed 19 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 3,312.

In the last day, 40,509 tests were completed and 44,507 are currently under investigation.

There are 452 people in Ontario hospitals, including 106 people in ICU. There are 93 long-term care homes with a COVID-19 outbreak involving 702 resident cases and 478 staff cases.

Ontario reported 116 new school-related COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 56 student cases, 13 staff cases and 47 individuals who have not been identified. One school remains closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Earlier this week, Ontario reported 1,575 cases — an alarming record high that was followed by an Ontario modelling projection that suggested 6,500 cases a day by the end of the year.

Check out our COVID-19 in Canada topic page for latest news, tips, health updates, cases and more.