Waterloo Region moving to red 'control' tier on Monday, health minister says
Published Friday, November 20, 2020 12:03PM EST Last Updated Friday, November 20, 2020 7:18PM EST
KITCHENER -- Region of Waterloo will move into the red "control" tier under Ontario's COVID-19 response framework on Monday.
Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott made the announcement on Friday afternoon after local public health officials had warned that the change would be coming soon.
Ford said it's important to get community spread of the disease under control as projections show that provincial case numbers could rise to 6,000 cases per day.
Durham Region will also move into the red tier, and Toronto and Peel will move into lockdown.
"In addition for regions and the red control level, the limit for all organized public events and social gatherings has been reduced to five people indoors and 25 people outdoors," Elliott said.
Provincial officials also said there will be further enforcement measures in these regions, allowing fines of $750 for anyone not following guidelines.
"Recent data trends and key public health indicators continue to worsen for many reasons in the province and we need to take action to ensure we are protecting the health and safety of Ontarians," Elliott said.
The region moved into the orange tier at the start of the week after just one week in the yellow tier, but public health officials warned that a move into the red was likely coming soon.
Over the past two weeks in Ontario, officials said hospitalizations have increased by 22 per cent and ICU admissions have gone up by nearly 50 per cent. Some hospitals have already delayed surgeries as cases surge.
Regional Chair Karen Redman said during a Friday media briefing that the decision will be up to the province, but that she and the region supported a move to the red "control" zone.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang also said that she had recommended that the province escalate Waterloo Region to the red "control" zone. Key COVID-19 indicators have already passed thresholds that would place the region there.
In a news release following the announcement from the province, Dr. Wang reiterated that people in the region should only leave their homes for essential purposes like going to work, going to school, getting groceries or takeout, going to medical appointments, or exercising, preferably outdoors.
"A number of municipal facilities remain open in the Red-Control category, however, these facilities remain open under greater restrictions and capacity limits. Before attending any facility, please be aware that COVID-19 is circulating throughout the community and please check ahead to identify what restrictions may be in place," Dr. Wang said in the release. “I appreciate that new restrictions and recommendations are difficult but these are the steps we must take if we are to get COVID-19 under control. If we all work together, to protect each other and our loved ones, our collective efforts will make a difference in Waterloo Region. We are stronger when we work together.”
The region's online COVID-19 dashboard shows that the positivity rate and reproductive rate are over the limits laid out in the orange "restrict" tier. Dr. Wang also said that the region's weekly incidence rate had reached 60 cases per 100,000, a number more than 50 per cent higher than the threshold for the red zone.
The rapid escalation in the region demonstrates how quickly cases have surged in recent weeks: the region saw more than 10 per cent of its total cases reported in the last week alone.
On Monday, the region moved from the yellow to the orange tier after originally being placed in the province's lowest green tier.
Nationally, models shared Friday showed that Canada could see as many as 60,000 cases of COVID-19 per day by the end of the year if people increase their number of contacts through the cooler weather.
SUPPORT FOR AFFECTED BUSINESSES
The province also announced support for small businesses that need to close or scale back operations as they move into the new tier.
"All of us know a small business owner struggling due to COVID-19," Minister of Finance Rod Phillips said. "We see the anxiety in their eyes when we get a haircut or visit our favourite restaurant. COVID-19 has hit them hard."
The province said it will provide $600 million to help these businesses cover fixed costs like energy and property tax bills.
"The additional resources we are making available for effective businesses today is why we set aside contingency funds in our budget, ensuring that we can respond to the needs of the people of Ontario, as the pandemic unfolds," Phillips said.
Businesses in Waterloo Region and others designated in the red or lockdown tiers can start applying for that funding on Tuesday.
"These rebates cover the entire length of time that a business is required to temporarily close or significantly restrict services," Phillips said. "I urge every eligible business owner, whether you appeal Toronto, as well as York, Hamilton halten and now Durham a Waterloo Regions to apply for the support."
More information on applications can be found at ontario.ca/covidsupport.