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Ontario orders COVID-19 lockdowns in York Region, Windsor

Friday, December 11, 2020 @ 4:04 PM | By John Schofield

With COVID-19 deaths rising, the Ontario government is moving York Region and Windsor-Essex into a public health lockdown for at least 28 days starting Dec. 14 at 12:01 a.m., joining Toronto and Peel Region.

At the same time, the London-Middlesex, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health units are being moved to Red-Control under the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, the government announced in a Dec. 11 news release. In addition, the Eastern Ontario health unit is being moved to Orange-Restrict and the Leeds Grenville and Lanark health region will enter the Yellow-Protect level of public health restrictions.

On Dec. 10, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit also ordered all schools in the area to close and for students to transition to online learning starting Dec. 14, a week before their holiday break is slated to begin.

“Moving a region into Grey-Lockdown is not an easy decision, but it is one we needed to make in order to help stop the spread of the virus and safeguard the key services we rely on,” Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in the government news release. “As we enter the holiday season and as the province prepares to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, it remains crucial for all Ontarians to continue adhering to public health advice and workplace safety measures to reduce the spread of the virus and keep each other safe.”

The colour-coded classifications and their specific health restrictions are detailed in the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework.

On Dec. 11, the Ontario Ministry of Health reported 1,848 new COVID-19 cases and an additional 45 deaths, a daily death toll not seen since June 4. That included 29 residents of long-term care homes. The total number of deaths in the province from COVID-19 now stands at 3,916.

Long-term care homes in Orange-Restrict areas and higher must follow visitor restrictions and enhanced testing requirements.

“Over the last week, public health indicators in the York and Windsor regions have continued to trend in the wrong direction and it is evident additional measures are needed to help limit the spread of the virus,” chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said in the news release.

“By making this difficult but necessary decision,” he added, “we can help to ensure that hospitals in these regions can work to provide patients with the care they need when they need it, including the performing of scheduled surgeries and other important procedures.”

The government urged Ontarians across the province to continue to follow all required public health measures and public health advice, including face coverings, physical distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding social gatherings. 

But in a news release, three NDP MPPs from the Windsor area, Lisa Gretzky, Taras Natyshak and Percy Hatfield, said the lockdown in their area could have been avoided if the government of Premier Doug Ford had been managing the pandemic more effectively.

“Doug Ford is sitting on $12 billion of unspent and unallocated COVID-19 funds that could have saved our region from the worst of this pandemic,” they said.

“He didn’t put infection control help into long-term care,” they added. “He rationed testing and contact tracing instead of investing in more. He didn’t give workers paid sick days. He didn’t shrink class sizes to protect students, education workers and their families. He should have started testing in schools months ago, but didn’t want to spend the money.”

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