Openings in Mississauga and Brampton likely to be delayed, suggests Premier Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested Thursday his government will keep Mississauga and Brampton as well as Toronto under a stay-at-home order for another two weeks.
The move comes at the request of top health officials in Peel Region and Toronto who fear that opening too soon will create dire health risks.
Peel and Toronto, two locations hit hard by COVID-19, were set to have their strict pandemic restrictions loosened on Monday, but health officials in both areas have asked for a delay, saying easing measures next week could lead to more illness and death.
A decision on those two regions, as well as York Region and North Bay, which also remain under a stay-home order, is expected Friday.
Ford said Thursday that he's "always supported local medical officers of health."
"No one understands their area, in Peel and Toronto, more than their local medical officers of health," he said. "I'm sure we're gonna follow the advice of the doctors."
The top doctors for Toronto and Peel penned a joint letter to the province's chief medical officer this week asking for current restrictions - which include the closure of non-essential retail - to be kept in place until at least March 9.
Dr. Eileen de Villa (Toronto) and Dr. Lawrence Loh (Peel Region) cited concerns about the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants and still-high levels of hospitalizations when making their request.
Ford said the province was also concerned about variants.
"We have to keep our guard up constantly," he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Williams, the province's chief medical officer, said he needed to review more data before making a recommendation on Toronto and Peel to the government.
"It's not just a rigid number that flips the switch," he said. "It's a combination of qualitative and quantitative information that feeds into it. That gives us the best advice when we give that up to the ministers and cabinet."
Williams added that while the province's cases continue to trend downward, Ontario remains in a "precarious" place because of the variant strains.
Ford's government began gradually lifting the stay-at-home order for parts of the province last week, with restrictions being loosened for the majority of Ontario this week. All those regions were transitioned back to the province's colour-coded restrictions system.
The economic reopening has been taking place despite expert warnings that it might set off a third wave.
In Toronto, the city's top doctor echoed some of those concerns on Wednesday, saying she has "never been as concerned about the threat of COVID-19 to (residents') health as I am now."
York Region's medical officer of health, however, has said his community is ready to see an easing of the strictest measures.
Dr. Karim Kurji said Thursday that he has recommended York be placed in the red - or second-strictest - category of the province's tiered restrictions system. Under that category, people can access fitness facilities and dine indoors at restaurants, with limits on capacity.
UPDATE: Premier Doug Ford will have his presser on Friday February 19, 2021 at 2pm. He will be joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and General Rick Hillier.
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