Ontario will officially remain in lockdown for at least two more weeks after the government’s current stay-at-home order expires on May 19, Premier Doug Ford has announced.
This will bring the latest provincewide COVID shutdown period up to a full eight weeks — longer, if measures are extended again after June 2.
It’s a move that Ford and his medical advisors say is necessary to keep daily case numbers tracking downward, keep hospital ICUs from becoming overwhelmed, and to prevent a deadly fourth wave of the pandemic.
“Despite improvements, key indicators remain high and more time is required before the province can safely lift the Stay-at-Home Order,” reads a release from the provincial government issued Thursday afternoon.
“From May 3 to 9, the provincial cases rate remained very high at 134.9 cases per 100,000 people, and per cent positivity was above the high alert threshold of 2.5 per cent. Hospitalization and ICU admissions also remain too high and well above the peak of wave two.”
Based on the above data, the government says it has decided to extend the stay-at-home order until at least June 2, but that the impacts of shutdown meaures “will continue to be evaluated over the coming weeks, with consideration being made to the reopening of outdoor recreational amenities on June 2.”
Schools will remain closed to in-person learning for the forseeable, but students between the ages of 12 and 17 will be eligible to book appointments for the Pfizer vaccine beginning May 31.
Under the current (and newly extended) stay-at-home order, all non-essential retailers must remain closed for in-person shopping. Big box stores can stay open with strict safety measures in place, but only for essential items.
All people in Ontario are encouraged to stay at home whenever possible and adhere to the ongoing provincewide shutdown rules.
“The province is not yet ready to lift the stay-at-home order while about 2,000 people are testing positive for COVID-19 every day and 1,800 people are so sick they need hospital care, 800 of them in intensive care units,” wrote the Ontario Medical Association in a statement on Wednesday.
“Extending the stay-at-home order significantly increases the likelihood Ontarians can enjoy a less restrictive summer and have a ‘more normal’ fall.”
Ford said similarly today in one of his first public appearances since retreating into isolation after a workplace exposure to COVID that his goal is for us to “have the most normal summer possible.”
“Obviously that won’t mean large sporting events or concerts, but if we manage the next few weeks properly, I believe we can have things in a very good place this summer,” said the premier from Queen’s Park.
“Friends, I know we’re all eager to get back to some sense of normal, but at a time when contagious variants pose real risk to our province, we can’t rush to reopen.”