Province tightens restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19

The province is taking immediate action to respond to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and is updating the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, by lowering the thresholds for each level in the framework.
These necessary updates will help limit the spread of COVID-19 while keeping schools open, maintaining health system capacity, protecting the province’s most vulnerable, and avoiding broader lockdowns.

“Our number one priority right now is getting the numbers down and keeping people safe,” Premier Doug Ford said. “That’s why, on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we’re updating the framework with new thresholds so we can slow the spread of this virus. These adjustments are necessary to respond to the latest evidence we’re seeing and we are prepared to make further adjustments as the health experts continue to review the current public health restrictions. We must do whatever it takes to stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed and protect our most vulnerable.”

The latest modelling shows that if the number of new cases continues to grow at its current rate, the province could register up to 6,500 new cases per day by mid-December. Within the next two weeks the province will likely exceed its intensive care threshold of 150 beds, under any potential scenario.

The framework changes are in response to the current data and trends, and will lower the threshold for each of the five levels for: weekly incidence rates, positivity rate, effective reproductive number (Rt), outbreak trends and the level of community transmission. Based on these new thresholds, the following public health unit regions would be moved to the following levels in the framework:

  • 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
    • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Visit Ontario.ca/COVID19 for the full list of public health region classifications that will come into effect as of November 16 at 12:01 a.m. Toronto Public Health moves into the framework on November 14.

For long-term care homes, visitor restrictions will apply to public health regions within the Orange-Restrict and Red-Control levels in the framework. This will go into effect on November 16 at 12:01 a.m.

“Over the last week we have seen an alarming shift in the trends of key public health indicators in regions across the province,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, and our government’s response must evolve with it. These updates to the COVID-19 Framework will ensure that the necessary targeted measures are in place in hotspots to help stop the spread of the virus and keep our schools and businesses open. Protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians remains our top priority.”

The framework takes a gradual approach that includes introducing preventative measures earlier to help avoid broader closures and allow for additional public health and workplace safety measures to be introduced or removed incrementally. It categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort.

Assignments to the current levels would last for a minimum of 28 days or two-incubation periods, at which time the status of these public health unit regions will be reassessed on a weekly basis. However, movement to a more restrictive zone will be considered sooner if there are rapidly worsening trends.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Ontarians have been playing their part to help bend the curve and stop the spread of the virus. Today more than ever, it is critical for everyone to follow public health advice and strictly comply to the restrictions applied in their regions, especially when connecting with others. The following recommendations apply to all public health unit regions in the province:

  • Avoid social gatherings and limit close contacts to your household or the people you live with;
  • Adhere to the restrictions in your region on public and private gatherings;
  • Maintain two metres of physical distancing from everyone else;
  • Wear a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing may not be maintained or if wearing one is required;
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly;
  • Stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild;
  • Cover your cough;
  • Get tested if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if you’ve been advised of exposure by your local public health unit or through the COVID Alert mobile app;
  • Individuals and families from higher transmission regions should avoid travel to lower transmission regions, except for essential reasons; and
  • Download the COVID Alert mobile app.

In addition, as the province continues to expand access to real-time data, enhancements have been made to Ontario.ca/coronavirus, Ontario’s one-stop shop for information on COVID-19. Users can now view new, active, resolved, deceased, and total cases, by public health unit, on a map. In addition, the website will now provide Ontarians with an effective reproduction number, as well as enhanced long-term care data. The government will continue to update the dashboard with relevant data to ensure as much transparency as possible. This information will better help businesses, organizations and local communities access key information to prepare in advance for any changes in their region.

Find out what level and which regional public measures are in place for your area.

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