By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
As of Monday, Nov. 23, Durham Region will be placed in the Red-Control zone, along with Waterloo, while Toronto and Peel will be placed in lockdown, Premier Doug Ford announced Friday.
Ford is pressing further with restrictions as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate, noting the situation is “extremely serious.”
Durham Regional Chair John Henry released a statement following Ford’s announcement Friday saying this is a necessary step to help continue the fight against COVID-19 and flatten the curve.
He notes Durham being placed in Red-Control means there will be several changes coming to Durham.
Gatherings will be limited to five people indoors and 25 outdoors; workplaces will have expanded restrictions, screening and planning requirements; new capacity restrictions in establishments such as restaurants, gyms, and other venues like those for weddings and religious services; and non-essential travel from areas of high transmission to areas of low transmission should be avoided.
“I urge you all to make informed decisions to help keep your family, your friends, and your neighbours safe,” says Henry. “We must continue to work together to protect those in our communities.”
Ford says hospitalizations have increased by 22 per cent, while intensive care unit admissions grew by nearly 50 per cent in the last week.
“We are teetering on the edge of having to delay scheduled surgeries,” he says, noting some hospitals in Scarborough have already done this.
According to Ford, recent modelling shows the province could be facing 6,000 new cases daily if nothing changes.
Ontario reached a new milestone Friday surpassing 100,000 total COVID-19 cases. With 1,418 new cases reported, the province has reached a total 100,790 cases.
Durham reported 31 new cases Nov. 19, one of which was in Oshawa. This brings the total confirmed cases in Oshawa to 659, 70 of which are currently active.
Across the region, there are currently 393 active cases of COVID-19, 13 of which are in hospital with one in the ICU. The total number of cases in Durham is 3,935.
“We cannot risk overwhelming our hospitals. To protect our most vulnerable, to protect what matters most, we have to get the community spread under control,” Ford continues.
“Further action is required to avoid the worst case scenario where the rate of community spread is greatest, the risk to our schools, to our long term care homes and to our hospitals it the greatest.”
While he understands the last few months have been “extremely difficult” and “COVID fatigue” is setting in on everyone, Ford says he’s seen the “strength of our people and it’s up to each and every one of us to determine our future.”
Ford also says now more than ever Ontarians need to rally around local businesses.
“We must support them,” he says, noting the government will be there to do its part.
“We will spare no expense to support these businesses.”
He says the government has doubled its supports for businesses impacted by these measures and that up to $600 million in relief will be made available immediately to help these businesses with fixed costs such as hydro bills and property taxes.
“We will be there for these folks,” he continues. “Please buy from local stores, please do your holiday shopping through curbside pickup or online stores. Support our restaurants and order takeout.”
Ford stresses that there’s no need for Ontarians to start panic buying, noting there’s no need to buy more than a family needs for a week or two.
“By avoiding the panic buying, we can ensure that supply chains are not impacted and there’s enough for everyone,” he says.
Mayor Dan Carter says the next six weeks are crucial to stopping the spread of the virus.
In a recent video message to residents, Carter says Oshawa has done a “great job so far” in the last eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, he says residents need to stay vigilant.
“We’re asking everybody, especially over the next six weeks, with the holiday season right around the corner, make sure that we wear a mask, that we’re washing our hands, continue to stay far apart and make sure we do not gather in large groups,” says Carter.
He says this is an important time in the community, adding all residents need to do their part in stopping the spread.
“The next six weeks will play a significant role,” Carter continues. “Let’s do this so that we can enjoy the holidays together and we can stop the spread together.”
Carter says he’s “proud” of the community, which he says has done “incredible things,” adding this is a moment in which everyone is being asked to be vigilant and listen to the health care experts.
“Stay home, stay apart, mask up, and lather up.”