toronto covid cases

Toronto can now tighten its own COVID-19 restrictions beyond Ontario's orders

With new daily case numbers of COVID-19 once again soaring to record highs, many Toronto residents are wondering if bars, restaurants and gyms will actually reopen this weekend as planned.

The Province of Ontario has yet to announce any changes to its transitional timeline, which saw every Ontario public health region but Toronto move into a new colour-coded coronavirus restriction system on November 7.

As it stands now, Toronto is still on track to leave "modified Stage 2" of the old framework and enter "Orange-Restrict" on November 17 at midnight.

Toronto will join York and Ottawa in this third-highest level of lockdown, as prescribed by the province, this weekend, leaving every other region in either the "Green-Prevent" or "Yellow-Protect" zones — save for Peel, which just entered the "Red-Restrict" zone.

An apparent slip of the tongue by Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggests that Toronto may, in fact, turn red on Saturday instead of orange, however.

"At the end of the day, again, Dr. de Villa has the authority and the power to change things if she's not comfortable in the 'red zone' as we call it and we'll respect her decisions," said Ford of Toronto's Medical Officer of Health during a press conference on Monday when asked about the city specifically.

"She is the local medical officer of health, and I respect all 34 medical officers of health."

This appears to be in stark contrast against what was happening earlier in the pandemic, when de Villa was pleading with the province to implement stronger lockdown measures amid fast-rising daily case numbers.

Shortly after announcing new restrictions for bars and restaurants in early October, Toronto Mayor John Tory revealed that he and de Villa had been exploring "new actions that could be taken outside Toronto's jurisdiction" to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Legally, however, they cautioned that the city could do little by way of ordering people to stay home or capping gathering limits — not without the province handing down official orders.

Whether or not something has changed at the legislative level remains unclear, but Ford's comments on Monday suggested that he will now fully support any public health decisions made at the municipal level in Toronto moving forward.

"We're in close collaboration with Dr. de Villa, our health table is, and I know Dr. Williams is," said the premier on Monday. "I'm in close communications with Mayor Tory, and we're going to communicate and make sure that we're all on the same page."

Regardless of whether we're deemed level orange or level red, bars and restaurants will reopen in Toronto (albeit with strict gathering limits in place) on November 14, per the province's new COVID-19 framework, without direct intervention from the city.

Neither Tory nor de Villa have ruled such interventions out.

"(We will) take a look at what is in place in the city of Toronto, take a look at the numbers, which are not heading in the right direction at the moment," said Tory earlier Monday.

"We will recommend and do whatever is responsible to do and whatever is in our power or we will discuss with the province whatever is in their power to make sure people are kept safe."

"As you know this coming Saturday, Toronto is supposed to end the restrictions put in place to limit our ability to interact in places where conditions make it easier for the virus to spread," said de Villa on Monday during a City of Toronto press conference.

"The case counts in Toronto do not point us toward fewer restrictions on our ability to come in contact with each other."

Dr. de Villa promised that her team would soon release "a full update so that residents and business will have the information they need to make the best choices for their circumstances."

That update will be released on Tuesday, according to the city.

"We're in a high risk situation. It is not time to panic, but it is time to act," said de Villa on Monday.

"When the virus demands it, living with COVID-19 requires strong, decisive action. And this is one of those times, for all of us."

Lead photo by

Sean Smith

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