covid restrictions toronto

More restrictions coming for Toronto as daily case count reaches new record high

For the second day in a row and the fourth time this month, Toronto just set a record high for the number of new COVID-19 cases reported overnight with a whopping 1,069 additional infections.

This is incredibly disappointing news for those who've been following grey-zone lockdown rules (and now, as of December 26, provincewide shut down rules) in the city for more than a month.

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health is no exception, and expressed as much during her pandemic update alongside Mayor John Tory on Wednesday morning.

"We've seen a 55 per cent increase in the 7-day moving average for hospitalizations since November 8. 92 people are in the ICU," said Dr. Eileen de Villa during the press conference earlier today. "And sadly, 4 people have died."

While she doesn't believe that this uptick in cases is related to Christmas celebrations, as Christmas was only 5 days ago and it usually takes close to two weeks to see such impacts, public health officials say that people are still gathering illegally at problematic levels.

"It is now reasonable that we should brace for an extended period of potentially unsettling and discouraging numbers in terms of COVID-19 infections in Toronto," warned the city's top doctor.

"For all of us, we have no choice but to resolve to keep apart as much as possible to limit further spread at these levels – or at any level."

To that effect, de Villa says that Toronto Public Health will "announce additional actions meant to reduce risk associated with COVID-19 in workplaces" next week.

No specific measures have been announced as of Wednesday, but de Villa says they are meant to "create as much distance and safety as possible, while respecting that many people need to work and many businesses are rightly permitted to continue operations in order to provide the goods and services we all need in daily life."

As for what more can be done in terms of restrictions, it's hard to say: Under the current provincewide shutdown framework, indoor events and social gatherings are completely prohibited (save for those among members of the same household.)

In-person shopping is banned in even more retail stores than before, with hardware stores added to the mix of settings only allowed to do curbside pickup and delivery, and so is both indoor and outdoor restaurant dining.

Capacity limits have been placed on big box stores, grocery stores and alcohol distributors, schools are closed until at least January 11, and personal care services have been shuttered completely for the duration of this lockdown period (which is set to expire in Toronto after 28 days.)

No ski hills, no theatres, no clubs, no gyms, no malls and masks mandatory inside every public environment. What more can be restricted? We shall see next week.

It seems clear that officials feel something needs to change: Dr. de Villa noted during today's press conference that our overall case count in Toronto has now surpassed the 60,000 mark.

Ontario, which reported a record 2,923 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, has now seen 178,831 cases in total and 4,474 deaths.

The virus has shown no signs of slowing down in Canada's largest city, where businesses are suffering, we're all getting restless and a new, even more contagious variant of the coronavirus is being detected locally.

And yet, de Villa is encouraging everyone in the city and beyond to have hope.

"We can make the virus level decline. Right now, that may seem hard to believe," she said on Wednesday. 

"While we take nothing for granted, the scientific and medical communities anticipate changes in the structure of a virus and its ability to spread... The indications are that the vaccines as developed will remain effective against the virus."

Despite the promise of widespread vaccinations next year, de Villa stressed that we must all still focus on protecting ourselves and others "because the risks around us are escalating."

"The next several months cannot be seen as just the stretch of time between vaccine trial results and needles in arms, or a period just to be waited out until it's our turn for the shot," she advised. "I urge you to double down on keeping apart, keeping a safe distance and wearing your mask every time you can."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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