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Province releases new framework for keeping Ontario ‘safe and open’

TORONTO – A new framework for implementing and lifting COVID-19 restrictions was announced by the provincial government on Nov. 3.

The “Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework” was developed in consultation with the chief medical officer of health and other health experts, states the province in a press release.

The aim is to ensure public health measures are “targeted, incremental and responsive” to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while keeping schools and businesses open, maintaining health system capacity and protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.

“It’s clear COVID-19 will be with us for a while, which is why we are putting in place a framework that will protect the health and safety of individuals and families, while avoiding broader closures across the province,” said Premier Doug Ford.

“This framework … will serve as an early warning system allowing us to scale up and scale back public health restrictions on a regional or community basis in response to surges and waves of COVID-19.

“By introducing public health measures sooner, we can keep this deadly virus at bay, bend the curve and reclaim a little more of our normal lives.”

The framework takes a gradual approach that includes preventative measures introduced earlier to help avoid broader closures and allow additional public health and workplace safety measures to be introduced/removed incrementally.

It categorizes public health unit regions into five levels:

  • Green (prevent);
  • Yellow (protect);
  • Orange (restrict);
  • Red (control); and
  • Lockdown (a measure of last and urgent resort).

Each level outlines the types of public health and workplace safety measures for businesses and organizations.

These include targeted measures for specific sectors, institutions and other settings.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Huron Perth Public Health and Grey Bruce Health Unit are currently listed, along with most of the province, in the Green (prevent) level.

At a press conference on Nov. 3, provincial officials announced Ottawa, Peel and York regions were set to move down into the Orange (restrict) level, meaning gyms and indoor dining can open, with capacity limits and restricted hours, on Nov. 7.

While Toronto, where Mayor John Tory asked for more time at its current modified stage two status, will move to the Orange (restrict) level on Nov. 14.

“This framework, informed by public health experts, data and the experiences of other jurisdictions, is focused on introducing less invasive measures earlier to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said minister of health Christine Elliott.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said, “This framework is critical to ensuring that public health measures are able to help slow the spread of the virus, while also supporting mental health and other social determinants of health.

“The framework operates like a dimmer switch, enabling measures and restrictions to be increased and give individuals and families the information they need to adjust their activities and interactions based on local epidemiological data.”

Enhancements are also being made to Ontario.ca/coronavirus, the province’s online portal for information on COVID-19.

Information about the spread of the virus, and public health and health system capacity will now be available on the website.

This includes local cases by public health unit regions, the total number of cases, resolved cases, deaths and tests completed and how many are positive.

Going forward, the government will continually assess the impact of public health measures applied to public health unit regions for 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods.

Supporting businesses

The province is making $300 million available to businesses required to close or significantly restrict services in areas subject to modified stage two restrictions (Ottawa, Peel, Toronto, and York Region) or, going forward, in areas categorized as Red (control) or Lockdown.