Ontario adds more public health and testing measures

Effective at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday October 3, 2020, the Ontario government is tightening public health guidelines and introducing amended testing measures. Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Dirk Huyer, Coordinator of the Provincial Outbreak Response, and Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health made the announcement today following the release this week of new modeling for COVID-19.

Also released today was an increase in total deaths in Ontario related to COVID-19 from 2,851 to 2,927 deaths. The daily epidemiologic study points out that while this is an increase of 76 deaths from yesterday’s total, there were “74 deaths reported for cases that occurred in the spring or summer and are now being recorded as part of a data review and data cleaning initiative.”

New measures for testing include:

  • Appointment-based testing at Ontario assessment centres beginning Tuesday, October 6, 2020
  • As of Sunday, October 4, 2020, assessment centres will discontinue walk-in testing services
  • Mobile testing and pop-up testing centres will continue, particularly targeting vulnerable populations
  • Expanding the number of pharmacies where people with no symptoms within provincial testing guidance
  • Implementing updated testing guidance for children to help parents determine when it is most appropriate for students, children and their families to seek a test for COVID-19

Longer-term actions on testing include:

  • Increasing testing and processing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by mid-October and 68,000 tests per day by mid-November
  • Introducing new testing methods once they are approved by Health Canada, including point of care testing and antigen testing

New public health measures include:

Mandatory use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions, including corrections and developmental services.

Targeted measures will also be implemented in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto, including:

  • Setting an indoor capacity limit to restrict occupancy at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments (including nightclubs) to the number of patrons who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other patron to a maximum of 100 patrons; permitting no more than six patrons per table; and requiring operators to ensure patrons maintain physical distance when lining up or congregating outside of their establishment.
  • Restricting group exercise classes at gyms and other fitness settings to 10 individuals, as well as restricting the total number of people allowed at these facilities to a maximum of 50
  • Limiting the number of people allowed at meeting and event facilities, including banquet halls, to six people per table and 50 people per facility

Premier Ford said, “The modeling we released this week demonstrates the absolute necessity to take action now to reverse current trends and protect our hospital capacity. With the weather changing and more people moving indoors, the decision to introduce new restrictions on restaurants, gyms and other businesses was difficult. However, we will do whatever is necessary, acting on the advice of our public health experts, to turn the tide on this second wave and keep everyone safe.”

The Ontario government is also:

  • Extending the pause on any further reopening of businesses, facilities, and organizations for an additional 28 days, unless already permitted to open under O. Reg 364/20;
  • Pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household; and
  • Finalizing additional guidance for seniors (70 and over) on how to minimize their risk of acquiring COVID-19, including for upcoming annual gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For public inquiries call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only)

Yelich,I. and Hilkene,A.(2020,Oct.2) Ontario Implementing Additional Public Health and Testing Measures to Keep People Safe [media release]

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