Just some thoughts
The province has moved into a renewed state of emergency, this one coming with a stay-at-home order. Although the province released a list of permissible activities allowed under the order, confusion swirls, including around the matter of enforcement.
As detailed in a statement from the City, the order gives police, bylaw officers, and workplace inspectors the authority to issue tickets to people not in compliance. Not wearing a mask or face covering indoors can get you ticketed, and enforcement personnel can “temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of an order and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park or house.”
Ok, thanks for that, but here’s the rub: how will that enforcement play out in real terms? Before getting into that, here’s a list of those aforementioned permissible activities:
• Work, school and child care: Working or volunteering where the nature of the work or volunteering requires the individual to leave their residence, including when the individual’s employer has determined that the nature of the individual’s work requires attendance at the workplace
• Attending school or a post-secondary institution
• Attending, obtaining or providing child care
• Receiving or providing training or educational services
• Attending, obtaining or providing child care
• Obtaining goods or services that are necessary for the health or safety of an individual, including health care services and medications
• Obtaining goods, obtaining services, or performing such activities as are necessary for the safe operation, maintenance and sanitation of households, businesses, means of transportation or other places
• Purchasing or picking up goods through an alternative method of sale, such as curb-side pickup, from a business or place that is permitted to provide curb-side pickup under the Stage 1 Order
• Attending an appointment at a business or place that is permitted to be open by appointment under the Stage 1 Order
• Obtaining services from a financial institution or cheque cashing service
• Obtaining government services, social services and supports, mental health support services or addictions support services
Further details include:
• All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curb-side pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery
• Outdoor organized public gatherings are now restricted to a limit of five people. Mask or face coverings are required in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is recommended outdoors when you cannot maintain physical distance
• Businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home
Critics are saying the order lacks clarity, particularly around the issues of what is essential and enforcement. To add clarity, the Province released the permissible list (above), but questions still remain regarding enforcement. Premier Doug Ford has said there is no clear definition as to what defines essential, adding that depends on individual circumstances. And it seems there is to be no limit on how long people can stay out, or how many times they do go out.
There’s no doubt something has to be done to rein in rapidly growing COVID-19 cases. New modelling released this week shows the spread of the virus is now over seven per cent on the worse days, and that hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) risk being overwhelmed. By early February, the modelling predicts beds in the unit will be filled with COVID-19 patients.
During normal times, most of those beds are filled with people suffering injuries or conditions like heart attacks. Now, more than 400 of the province’s beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Surgeries are being cancelled now.
Almost 40 per cent of Ontario’s long-term-care homes have active outbreaks, and more deaths are expected.
“Without significant reductions in contacts, the health system will be overwhelmed and mortality will exceed the first wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect,” says the modelling.
Ford was clearly unwilling to follow Quebec’s lead with a curfew, so the new measures can probably be labelled ‘curfew-light.’ It seems people are being asked to use their best judgement as to what constitutes essential travel. Will enforcement follow that vague interpretation, or will it be something else, more proactive than reactive? Let’s have some clarity here.