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Ontario enters Step 1 of reopening plan with limited retail shopping, patio dining

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jun 11th, 2021

Ontario has entered the first step of its reopening plan, which will see a return to limited retail shopping and patio dining.

Step 1 of the Ford government’s reopening plan was tentatively slated for June 14 but with new daily coronavirus cases remaining below 1,000 and vaccinations ramping up, provincial officials agreed to kickstart the Roadmap to Reopen a few days early.

Just in time for the weekend, patio dining with a maximum of four patrons per table will now be allowed while indoor dining remains off-limits.

Essential retail stores, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, can now operate at 25 per cent capacity while discount and big box stores are no longer restricted to selling certain goods.

Limited non-essential retail shopping can resume at 15 per cent capacity. The reopening of non-essential retail is for street entrance only and stores located inside of malls without a street entrance will have to wait until Step 2 before they can open.

Outdoor organized public events and social gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted and this number may be exceeded if those you are gathering with are members of the same household.

Religious services, as well as weddings and funerals, can resume at 15 per cent capacity provided two metres of physical distancing can be observed.

Most outdoor recreation amenities, including splash pads and outdoor pools (by appointment only), are open while outdoor fitness classes of up to 10 participants are permitted, providing physical distancing of three metres can be maintained. Training for sports teams is permitted but may not include games or scrimmages and team sports are still not permitted.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait at least until next month to get that haircut or manicure. Personal care services such as barber shops, nail salons, tanning studios, and other cosmetic services are not permitted to operate in Step 1.

The province will remain in Step 1 for at least 21 days to assess impacts on key public health and health system indicators before deciding whether or not to move on to Step 2. Among those indicators, 70 per cent of adults will need to be vaccinated with one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 20 per cent of Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated.

As of Thursday night, almost 63 per cent of Ontarians had received one dose of the vaccine while almost 11 per cent of people aged 12+ in the province are considered fully vaccinated.

Ontario businesses have been locked down since mid-April as the province navigated a third wave of the pandemic.

New modelling data released Thursday shows COVID-19 case counts are expected to decline over the next 10 days, however, the forecast depends heavily on more people being vaccinated and the impact of the Delta strain of the coronavirus.

The projections show if virus spread is low and we are vaccinating people at the rate of 142,000 per day, we will see under 500 cases a day until mid-August, with cases continuing to drop.

However, if virus spread is high with the same vaccination rate, cases could spike back up to 2,500 per day. With 180,000 vaccines per day, that number would be at around 1,500.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, says vaccinations need to accelerate, particularly in so-called hot spots, to avoid a fourth wave. But he says the latest projections are far from a “doomsday scenario” of uncontrolled infections.

Ontario says it plans to accelerate second shots of COVID-19 vaccines for people in Delta variant hot spots. Starting Monday, residents in seven designated areas who had first inoculations on or before May 9 can now book an appointment for an earlier second shot.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this reportv

City notes rise in aggressive behaviour at vaccine clinics ‘totally unacceptable’

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

City officials say they are concerned about a rise in aggressive behaviour towards staff at the City-run vaccination clinics.

Mayor John Tory says he’s received reports of people attempting to bully their way into receiving a second dose or refusing to follow the rules when inside the clinics, calling it “completely and totally unacceptable.”

“We’re hearing reports of racist and sexist comments targeting employees and of harassing behaviour,” said Tory.

“I know its a very, very small minority who would even think of doing that but …it has to come to an end and it won’t be tolerated.”

While Chief Matthew Pegg couldn’t provide numbers on how many of these incidents they have had to deal with, he said the majority are from people who’ve been told they aren’t allowed to snap pictures inside the clinics. He says that is done in order to protect personal health information.

Meanwhile, a warning from Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, not to get too comfortable as we inch closer to the first stage of the province’s reopening plan this weekend.

“COVID-19 is a nimble virus and doesn’t seem ready to go away quickly or easily,” she said.

“We are nearing the finish line – we don’t want to turn it into an obstacle course.”

De Villa noted there are currently 122 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the city, and while that may not sound like a lot, “we have seen what happens when a variant suddenly explodes.”

She pointed out that while 72 per cent of adults in Toronto have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is only 33 per cent effective against the latest variant.

“The Delta variant is a force to be reckoned with; more transmissible, more infectious,” she said.

“If you’ve had a first dose don’t overestimate its protective power. There are two dose vaccines for a reason; I ask that you please make it your mission to show up for both.”

Ford recalls legislature to invoke notwithstanding clause over election finance ruling

RICHARD SOUTHERN AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

The Ford government has recalled the Ontario legislature for Thursday in order to reverse a court decision on election advertising limits.
The notwithstanding clause, which has never been used in Ontario, allows federal or provincial governments to override sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The provincial government plans to invoke it in order to overturn a court decision this week that ruled certain parts of the Elections Finances Act are unconstitutional for limiting third party advertising.

Enacted under the Wynne Liberal government, the Elections Finances Act stated that third party advertisers, individuals or groups, could spend $600,000 in the six months before an election, the Ford government expanded it to $600,000 in the 12 months preceding an election.

However, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan declared the recent changes by the province were unconstitutional.

The attorney general had argued that the changes, which came into force in May, were necessary to protect democratic elections from outside influence.

Justice Morgan wrote in his Tuesday decision that extending the regulated spending period to 12 months was not necessary.

Morgan’s judgment declared the sections of the Election Finances Act involved in the court challenge to be no longer in force and the ruling would take effect immediately given the sensitive timing of the case. The next provincial election is scheduled for June 2, 2022 — less than a year away.

In a statement, Ford government House Leader Paul Callandra said the legislature was being recalled to introduce “legislation to protect the individual rights of Ontario voters and protect our elections from American-style super PACs and their big money political influence.”

“In the coming days, the government will be using every tool in the toolbox to protect our democracy. Ontario’s elections belong to the people and the people elected our government to protect and defend our democratic institutions. We will do just that,” read the statement.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) called the decision by the Ford government to use the notwithstanding clause, “unconstitutional and undemocratic.”

In a statement, the CCLA wrote, “The notwithstanding clause was designed to be a democratic safety valve, not a brazen power grab to tilt election rules in a government’s favour.”

Toronto extends COVID-19 bylaws until end of September

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

As the province prepares to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions, Toronto City Council has approved an extension of coronavirus bylaws until at least the end of September.

The five temporary measures, which were set to expire today, include maintaining physical distancing in City parks and public squares, mandatory face coverings in businesses, apartments and condominiums, and requiring food and drink establishments to maintain customer logs along with other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The recommendations to extend the measures were made in a letter to City Council on behalf of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, back on June 1.

“COVID-19 numbers are decreasing, but it remains a significant concern and we need to continue our efforts to reduce and limit virus spread,” said de Villa.

The measures come ahead of the provincial plan to proceed with Step 1 in the reopening process as of 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

“We have come a long way in our fight against COVID-19 and we want to make sure our case numbers continue to go in the right direction so that we can proceed with a safe and cautious reopening,” said Mayor John Tory. “As we start to gradually reopen thanks to increasing vaccination numbers, we need to remain vigilant to protect our community.”

Woman stabbed near Yonge-Dundas Square

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Jun 10th, 2021

A woman has been taken to hospital after being stabbed near Yonge-Dundas Square.

Police were called to Dundas and Victoria Streets just after 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The victim was found suffering from a stab wound and was taken to hospital with serious, non-life-threatening injuries.

A suspect reportedly fled the scene prior to police arriving.

More to come

U of T latest school to make vaccinations mandatory for residence ahead of fall

LUCAS CASALETTO | posted Wednesday, Jun 9th, 2021

The University of Toronto will require students living in residence during the upcoming school year to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The school made the announcement on Tuesday, saying the measure is supported by both Toronto and Peel Region’s public health units.

U of T says students should have their first dose prior to their move-in date and are strongly recommending they receive it at least 14 days before moving in.

The university further adds that those unable to get vaccinated before moving into residence will have two weeks following their move-in date to receive their first dose and they will help expedite access to vaccines, subject to supply.

“This requirement, which is endorsed by our local public health authorities, will enable us to give our students the residence experience that they expect – and that is so important to their growth and development – without compromising on their health and safety,” said Sandy Welsh, U of T’s Vice-Provost of students.

Welsh said in a statement students in residence who have not received a first dose within two weeks after moving in may be subject to additional public health restrictions.

“It’s really important that students be able to interact safely with one another and participate in the in-person programming that we know they value so highly.”

Western University in London, Ont. became one of the first to require students living in residence to be vaccinated against COVID-19 come September.

In-person learning across the province has been suspended until further notice.

Ontario reports fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Jun 9th, 2021

Ontario is reporting 469 new COVID-19 cases and 18 additional deaths on Tuesday.

For the second straight day the province sees the smallest daily increase of new infections since September. There have been fewer than 1,000 cases for nine consecutive days and it is the first time Ontario has reported fewer than 500 new cases since Sep. 26.

The province is reporting a test positivity rate of 2.7 per cent, down from 3.6 per cent one week ago. It is the lowest positivity rate since March 12.

There were 17,579 tests completed in the last 24-hour period.

Locally, there are 182 new cases in Toronto, 76 in Peel, 40 in the Porcupine Health Unit Region and 30 in Durham. The province reports no new cases for York Region but says this is due to data cleaning and updating of previously reported cases.

There were another 1,010 resolved cases, dropping the active case count. Resolved cases have outnumbered new infections each day since mid-April.

The province reported 525 cases and 15 deaths on Monday.

There are now 621 people hospitalized in the province with 481 in the ICU. Hospitalizations are down nearly 200 since one week ago while ICU numbers have dropped more than 100 in the last week.

There were another 158,209 vaccine doses administered in the last 24-hour period.

As of 8:00 p.m. Monday, 10,267,613 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and 70.3 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received at least one dose, while 9.1 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated.

More Ontarians are eligible to book their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine through the provincial system this week.

Those aged 70 and older, as well as people who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine on or before April 18, can now book their second shot at mass immunization clinics on the province’s online booking portal or through its phone line.

AstraZeneca recipients who received the shot more than 12 weeks ago can also book an mRNA second dose through the provincial system.

Before Step 2 of the reopening plan can begin, the province has outlined that 70 per cent of Ontario adults need to have received at least one dose, and 20 per cent need to have received both doses.

The first dose mark of 70 per cent has already been met and the province hopes the acceleration of second doses will help meet the 20 per cent.

Ontario has announced that it will lift some pandemic restrictions and enter Step 1 of its economic reopening plan on Friday; a few days ahead of schedule.

The move will allow for patio dining at a maximum of four patrons per table and limited non-essential retail shopping to resume at 15 per cent capacity ahead of the upcoming weekend.

The reopening of non-essential retail is street entrance only and stores located inside of malls without a street entrance will reopen to the public in Step 2, now slated for July 2. Personal care services are also set to reopen as part of Step 2.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), representing over 90,000 small businesses in Ontario, says they’re elated to finally get back to normal operations as of Friday.

The President of the CFIB is calling for the province to accelerate through the next stages of its reopening plan, which in its current state will lift restrictions further every three weeks depending on the pandemic situation and status of vaccinations at the time.

Trudeau pledges to do more to dismantle hate groups after ‘terrorist attack’ in London

KAYLA BUTLER | posted Wednesday, Jun 9th, 2021

OTTAWA – The prime minister is categorizing a recent attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont. as a terror attack, adding his government will do more to dismantle hate groups.

The House of Commons opened session Tuesday morning in Ottawa with a moment of silence for the five victims in Sunday night’s hit-and-run.

Four family members – including a 74-year-old woman, 44-year-old woman, 46-year-old man, and a 15-year-old girl – were killed at a red light around 8:30 p.m. when a large, black truck came up behind the family and struck them at a high speed.

READ MORE: London, Ont. police believe Muslim family of 5 were targeted in hate-motivated, hit-and-run attack

A 9-year-old, the sole survivor and fifth family member, remains in hospital with serious injuries.

Police said Monday they believed the family was targeted because of their faith.

Justin Trudeau said during Tuesday’s session that the hit-and-run was terrorist attack, adding that we ll must take an active role in standing up to hate and terror.

“A family never made it home. Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence. The killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred,” he said.

He said this attack is one of many racist and Islamophobic attacks in the country and they need to stop.

“We not only have to say enough is enough–you must take action. We cannot allow any form of hate to take root because the consequences can be far too serious,” he said.

“To anyone who thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I ask you this: How do we explain such violence?”

He said non-Muslim Canadians need to understand the anxiety and fear that others are carrying.

“It is on all of us to understand that experience, be there to support, to help. We can and we must act.”

He pledged to do more to dismantle far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys.

“We will continue to fund initiatives like the security infrastructure program to help protect communities at risk and their schools, and places of worship. We will continue to fight hate, online and offline,” he said.

The leaders of all national federal parties in the House of Commons will be in attendance at the vigil Tuesday night in London to honour the victims.

Police arrested the 20-year-old man they believe was responsible for the attack a short time after it happened in the parking lot of a mall seven kilometres away. They say he was wearing a body-armour-type vest at the time he was apprehended.

Police say there was no known prior relationship between the suspect and the victims and it’s believed he acted alone.

He’s been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

-with files from the Canadian Press

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