The province of Ontario has declared a new state of emergency and issued a four-week stay-at-home order to take effect at midnight tonight.
The move comes after the province reported 3,215 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, pushing the seven-day average to 2,988 daily cases.
There are 1,397 COVID patients in Ontario hospitals, including 476 in intensive care.
The Renfrew County and District Health Unit is reporting three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the local region, with 26 active.
As part of the order, all “non-essential” retail stores will be required to close for delivery or curbside pickup service only.
Schools are expected to remain open, but teachers and other education workers will move up the priority vaccination list.
Today’s announcement comes six days after the province announced that it was applying an “emergency brake” to all public health regions in Ontario, shutting down things like indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants and bars, gyms and other recreation facilities, and personal care services like hair and nail salons.
Premier Doug Ford said the situation is “evolving rapidly, hour by hour.”
“I can’t stress this enough. Things are extremely, extremely serious right now. And I’m extremely concerned,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m pleading with the people of Ontario, please, for the sake of you and your loved ones, stay at home. We’ve done it before, and it works.”
Ford said “I hear you” when it comes to public frustration with the changing rules.
“I know people are frustrated, I get frustrated,” he said. “But look at the health care workers who have been in this since day one. We can’t give up now.”
“Please folks, let’s stick together. We need to stick together and follow the rules and we’ll be able to get through this.”
In a statement following Ford’s live remarks, the province said case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing rapidly, threatening to overwhelm the health care system.
“The COVID-19 situation is at a critical stage and we must act quickly and decisively to stay ahead of these deadly new variants,” said Premier Ford.
“By imposing these strict new measures we will keep people safe while allowing our vaccination program to reach more people, starting with our high risk population and identified hot spots. Although this is difficult, I urge everyone to follow these public health measures and together we will defeat this deadly virus.”
For the province’s full announcement, click here.
- For more local coverage, pick up a copy of this week’s NRT. To get the NRT delivered directly to your mail box or inbox each week, subscribe here.