A summary of the day's activities of Thursday, September 17, follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
- There are no federal government relief measures to announce.
Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
- The Prime Minister did not hold a press conference today.
Federal Government Briefings
In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:
"There have been 139,747 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,193 deaths. 88% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested an average of 47,111 people daily over the past week with 1.4% testing positive. An average of 779 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days."
Dr. Tam notes that the "ongoing increases in new cases being reported daily continues to give cause for concern. With continued circulation of the virus, the situation could change quickly and we could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at manageable levels."
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ministers
In a news conference at Queen's Park, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a tightening of restrictions for unmonitored social gatherings in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark and Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams, joined the Premier.
Before making his announcement, Premier Ford expressed his concern with reports of over 300 new cases in the province within a 24-hour period. He then said that following consultations with Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, local medical officers of health and local municipal leaders, the government was rolling back limits for unmonitored social gatherings in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors as of Friday. This includes functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.
Order O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 has been amended to reflect the change.
Premier Ford specified the new limits will not apply to events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres or banquet halls, gyms, and recreational sporting or performing art events. Existing rules, including public health and workplace safety measures, for these businesses and facilities continue to be in effect.
In addition, Premier Ford said he will "throw the book" at rule-breakers.
To support better compliance with public health guidelines, both within these three regions and across Ontario, amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act would, if passed, create:
- A new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds limits under an order
- A minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings (our emphasis). (Note: Individuals attending banned gatherings will continue to be fined $750.00.)
- Authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the purpose of the new offence.
- Authority for a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to order the temporary closure of a premise where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any gathering exceeding the number of people allowed is taking place and require individuals to leave the premises.
Premier Ford pointed out that the new compliance measures are the most stringent in all of Canada.
In addition, Premier Ford announced that his government has introduced the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act that would, if passed, freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units. The purpose of the bill is to provide the vast majority of Ontario's tenants with financial relief as the province continues down the path of renewal, growth and economic recovery.
The Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act also proposes to change the Commercial Tenancies Act to extend the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenants. The ban was initially in place from May 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020, to align with the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. The extension to the commercial eviction ban would apply to businesses eligible for the CECRA for small businesses program. Extending the ban on commercial evictions would allow Ontario to continue to protect small businesses and help them get back on their feet, so they can create jobs and help rebuild the economy.
Journalists wanted to know why the limits on the size of social gatherings were being rolled back while there were no mandatory caps on class sizes. Deputy Premier Elliott and Dr. Williams pointed out that the government's back to school plan included many layers of protection, including students in cohorts. Social gatherings in homes, public parks or beaches ignore public health measures. A tactical response is required to respond to target behaviours that cause COVID-19.
Statement of Quebec Premier François Legault and Ministers
Quebec Premier François held his daily news conference at the National Assembly in Quebec City.
On the matter of COVID-19, Premier Legault said that all provinces were working very hard to limit the spread of the virus. Quebec was not alone in its fight against COVID-19. He reiterated that the vast majority of Quebecers are following public health guidelines, but a small group are not, and they are doing a lot of damage.
The Premier also said that he requested a tougher advertising campaign to enhance public health messages.
Premier Legault becomes President of the Council of the Federation tomorrow. Brian Pallister, Premier of Manitoba, becomes the Vice-Chair. Premier Legault is meeting with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Premier Brian Pallister in Ottawa tomorrow. He said that all the Premiers have reached consensus on issues and will make demands to the federal government. He suggested that further details would be provided at a news conference tomorrow.
This afternoon Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda held a news conference to provide a technical update on the government's response to COVID-19.
Minister Dubé reiterated that 75 per cent of the province is in pre-alert mode (yellow COVID-19 alert-level) and public health was closely monitoring the situation. He pointed out there was nothing precluding regions in the yellow zone to advance to the orange zone. While there were no plans in the short term to change alerts, Minister Dubé reminded journalists that the outcome depended on the willingness of Quebecers to comply with public health guidance.
Elsewhere in Canada
Yesterday, Alberta Health Services announced 171 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.
Alberta Health Services is launching a new online tool over the next week which will allow Albertans to schedule visits with loved ones in continuing care. In a news release, Minister of Health Tyler Shando stated, "Online tools have played a key role in keeping Albertans safe during COVID-19, and [this tool] is an example of this".
Yesterday, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced 122 new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. Currently, 60 individuals are hospitalized, 23 of whom are in intensive care. There are 1,614 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 2,966 people under active public health monitoring for known exposures.
To stop overdoses and save lives, Dr. Henry has issued a public health order to increase the number of health professionals authorized to help people at risk for overdose access safer alternatives to the toxic street drug supply. Dr. Henry stated, "We know the pandemic has only made the street drug supply in BC more toxic than ever, putting people who use drugs at extremely high risk for overdose. Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services".
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