Ontario moves York Region to modified Stage 2 as COVID-19 cases rise
TORONTO -- York Region will join the other COVID-19 hotspots in Ontario in reverting to a modified Stage 2, forcing the closure of indoor dining, gyms and movie theatres.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Friday afternoon, alongside Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli.
“We had a discussion earlier today at cabinet about additional measures to protect the people of York Region from COVID-19,” Ford said. “I hate doing this my friends. Honestly, I hate this.”
“Effective Monday morning at 12:01 a.m. York Region will move into a modified version of Stage 2 for a period of 28 days. My friends, this was not an easy decision to make. And I know this will be very, very difficult for many people to hear.”
Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa were placed into a modified version of Stage 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan last week.
Under the modified Stage 2, restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, including nightclubs and food courts in malls, will no longer be able to provide indoor dining services.
All indoor gyms and fitness centres, including yoga and dance studios, will be closed along with cinemas and gaming establishments.
Schools and daycare centres have remained open in these COVID-19 hotspots under the modified Stage 2.
The province has been hinting at expanding the number of areas who needed to revert to Stage 2 for the past week, saying on Thursday that York Region specifically has “been teetering for a little while” in their daily number of reported COVID-19 cases.
York Region has reported an average of 76 new daily cases of COVID-19 over the last week but on Thursday, they racked up 127 new infections.
Only Toronto and Peel Region reported more COVID-19 cases that day.
On Friday, that number decreased to 62 cases in York Region compared to Toronto (213), Peel Region (135) and Ottawa (108)
Ford told reporters that despite today’s numbers, “indicators are going in the wrong direction.”
He said that York Region has a COVID-19 positivity rate of about 2.77 per cent, which is above the 2.5 per cent “high alert threshold.”
“We can't allow this virus to get into our long-term care homes. We need to protect our schools and our communities. We need to keep performing vital surgeries in our hospitals,” Ford said.
“We need to stop this spread before things get worse. We need to avoid a full lockdown.”
On Thursday, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health indicated that further measures could be coming to both York Region and Halton Region, saying that officials are “concerned.”
Halton reported 46 new infections on Friday.
When asked why only York Region was included in the expanded list of Stage 2 hotspots, Elliott said that the COVID-19 command table looks at a variety of factors, including daily case counts, cases per capita and the disease’s reproduction number.
“This is a very difficult decision to make because we know it requires sacrifices on many people and it's going to affect people's lives significantly,” Elliott said.
“But we are seeing some concerning trends in York that required us to take action. So, it's not necessarily what the numbers are from one day to the next but the trend that we are seeing and we are seeing an alarming upward trend.”
Elliott added that she hopes the province doesn’t have to implement further health restrictions in other regions of Ontario.
Moments after the announcement, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti thanked the premier for giving the hospitality industry a few days to adjust their operations.
The new restrictions were implemented in less than 24 hours in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.
“I sympathize greatly with businesses in our community and I have been so impressed by how our local restaurant and hospitality industry has adhered to public health protocols. These new restrictions bring about more uncertainty and additional challenges,” Scarpitti said in a statement.
“We must continue to work collectively, individuals, businesses and the various levels of government as we have done throughout this pandemic so far. We cannot let out guard down.”
Scarpitti also said that the city will no longer be offering fitness activities at the Markham Pan Am Centre as a result of the new restrictions.
There have been more than 62,000 lab-confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the beginning of the pandemic.