Ontario is facing “the most serious situation we’ve ever been in” as COVID-19 cases climb and intensive care unit (ICU) beds fill up, Premier Doug Ford warned Friday.
He said the province will release new modelling early next week that will be a “wake-up call” to Ontarians and called for people to follow public health guidelines and not gather outside of their household.
“We’re in a desperate situation, and when you see the modelling, you know, you’ll fall off your chair,” Ford said.
“Everything is on the table right now, there will be further measures, because this is getting out of control, we have to do whatever it takes.”
He said there will be “dire consequences” if basic measures continue to be ignored.
“The shutdown won’t end at the end of January,” the premier said. “And we will have to look at more extreme measures.”
Ford did not announce new measures at his press conference, instead calling on the federal government to get more vaccines and for Health Canada to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Earlier this week, Ford said he would talk to Quebec Premier François Legault about that province’s curfew and said Ontario would make a decision on a similar measure “over the next few days.”
Ontario reported 4,249 new cases Friday, although a delay in reporting means new cases from earlier this week were included in today’s data, said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health.
“Today’s numbers are, to be frank, they are scary,” she said.
“We need to consider all possible measures to contain this infection. We don’t want more people dying. We don’t want the ICUs overwhelmed. We don’t want morgues overwhelmed.”
Yaffe said measures “perhaps similar” to those from the spring should be considered.
Hospitals in London and Windsor have already had to use mobile or temporary morgues as the number of deaths rises.
Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters she was shocked by the premier’s press conference.
“I think what’s happened today is absolutely beyond the pale and Ford’s washing his hands of any proactive measures and instead saying, ‘Please wash your hands and, you know, we’ll get those vaccines to people eventually,’” she said. “That’s just not good enough.”
Horwath called for stronger lockdown measures similar to those from the first wave.
“We really do need to step up to the plate and not only talk about even stronger measures, but actually show people that stronger measures are necessary,” she said. “And to suggest that everybody should wait until next week to fall off their chairs, it’s astounding.”
According to provincial data, 224 of Ontario’s 626 long-term care facilities are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, More than 2,900 residents, and at least nine staff members, have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
In response to a question about long-term care, Ford repeated past statements that the province is “putting an iron ring” around the homes. He said the province paid for security guards to screen people entering homes, and suggested caregivers and staff get tested twice a week.
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He said vaccines are “how we’re going to stop” the spread of the virus in long-term care.
The province plans to vaccinate all long-term care residents and staff in four hotspot regions by Jan. 21. It has put $1.38 billion toward helping the sector weather the pandemic.
There have been calls to send the military back into facilities struggling to contain the spread of the virus and speed up vaccination programs.
“It didn’t have to end up here,” Horwath said. “Much of this could have been avoided, or at least the, you know, the impact of COVID-19 could have been, you know, reduced in long-term care, had the government taken the necessary measures to protect people’s lives ….”