Ford to make announcement with stay-at-home order set to expire next week

Premier Doug Ford is set to make an announcement Thursday, a week ahead of the scheduled end of Ontario’s provincewide stay-at-home order.

It will be the first time Ford has taken questions at a news conference in more than a week.

Ford’s office says he will be joined at the noon announcement by the minister of health and solicitor general, as well as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. You’ll be able to watch it live in this story.

It comes as Ontario reported another 2,759 cases of COVID-19 and 31 more deaths linked to the illness this morning. While it’s the most new infections in four days, it is still well below last Thursday’s count of 3,424. It is most useful to compare the same days of the week because of the cyclical nature of testing in Ontario. 

The new cases include 774 in Toronto, 602 in Peel Region, 258 in York Region, 147 in Durham Region, 133 in Hamilton and 110 in Ottawa. 

The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 2,731, its lowest it has been in about five weeks.

This morning, Ford released another letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting enhanced COVID-19 measures at Canada’s borders, including:

  • Reducing the number of international flights coming to Canada, particularly Ontario.
  • Mandatory COVID-19 tests for domestic travellers.
  • Requiring those crossing at a land border to spend three days in a quarantine hotel.

Ford said he has now sent four letters asking for the various measures without a formal response from the federal government. He went on to point out that the B117 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant strain in Ontario, accounting for almost all new infections.

“Existing measures at the border, an area of federal responsibility, failed to keep variants of concern out of Canada. These variants entered our province through our borders and, as a result, have had devastating impacts on our communities,” Ford said.

You can read the full letter at the bottom of this story.

Notably, the provincial government’s own scientific advisors warned back in early February that Ontario faced a potentially explosive third wave due to the prevalance of variants already in the country. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking on Toronto-based CP24, accused Ford of “pointing fingers” to deflect from his own government’s handling of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, there’s still a question about what the province will do with its stay-at-home order.

The order was initially implemented on April 8, as cases of COVID-19 due to the B117 variant were growing exponentially, and was supposed to last 28 days. Shortly after it went into effect, though, it was extended until at least May 20. Health Minister Christine Elliott hinted this week it may be extended until early June, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Infectious disease experts and many physicians, including the Ontario Medical Association, have already said that the order will need to stay in place past its current expiry to ensure there is not a resurgence in cases and hospitalizations.

Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said this week that the pandemic is now “sort of under control” in the province but easing restrictions too early could impede the progress being made.

Daily case counts, total hospitalizations and admissions to critical care are all on the decline, but still far from levels that would allow for any significant reopening, especially in harder-hit regions of southern Ontario. 

Ideally daily cases would be around 800, Jüni said, so that the testing and contact tracing system “can begin to work again.”

Moreover, as of Tuesday, there were still 776 people with COVID-related illnesses being treated in ICUs. Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, has said he’d like to see overall ICU admissions to drop below 150 before public health measures are eased. 

That said, the science advisory table has called on the government to consider amending limits on outdoor activities.

“We need a clear distinction between indoor and outdoor space,” Jüni told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning in an interview yesterday.

Ontario’s reopening playbook from medical experts

What the Ontario Medical Association wants to see reopened and what’s still too risky as the province moves into the summer months. 3:16

  • Prioritize reopening outdoor spaces and amenities — that could go as far as opening patios, so long as stringent rules are in place and they are truly outdoors.
  • But, keep the stay-at-home order to limit people moving throughout the province.
  • Maintain a ban on mass gatherings. 
  • The first indoor facilities that should reopen? Schools, according to Dr. Vinita Dubey, the associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health. For now, however, the province and local health officials won’t say if students will be able to return to in-person learning before the summer break.

Here is Ford’s letter to the prime minister:

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