News Mandatory mask policy across all of Ontario, social circles shrunk to households SHARE ON: Wendy Gray, staff Friday, Oct. 2nd, 2020 More changes are coming to public health restrictions in Ontario. On Friday Premier Doug Ford said the new provincial data modelling was a “wake up call” as the report says we could see 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day by mid-October and 200 to 300 people in hospitals per day. Effective Saturday, October 3rd at 12:01 am all areas of the province must follow these new restrictions: Extending the pause on any further reopening of businesses, facilities, and organizations for an additional 28 days, unless already permitted to open; Pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household; and Finalizing additional guidance for seniors (70 and over) on how to minimize their risk of acquiring COVID-19, including for upcoming annual gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. Ford also introduced changes to testing across the province in order to avoid long lineups of people waiting outside assessment centres in the cold winter months. On Tuesday, October 6th all assessment centres will only be offering testing by appointment and as of Sunday, October 4th there will be no walk-ins allowed. The province says that’s in order to allow labs to clear the backlog of tests that still need processing. As of Friday, that number sits at 90,513. Pop-up testing will still be offered to vulnerable residents in long-term care and congregate settings. Ford assured everyone who already has an appointment for a COVID-19 test they will still be able to keep that appointment. As far as Thanksgiving Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott is asking everyone to keep their social gatherings for the holiday to their own households or to single people they know have been very careful at maintaining their social circles. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams says that’s because at the end of the summer some Ontarians relaxed their social bubbles far beyond the ten people restriction. He said the province’s health officials are asking people to, “hunker back down and pick your people carefully. There’s a winter storm coming.” He said they haven’t set a specific number but have asked people to keep their social circles small. Dr. Williams says there have been some instances where people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have provided lists of 25 people or more to contact tracers. Additionally, in the three “hotspots” of Ontario; Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region there have been additional public health restrictions put into place: Setting an indoor capacity limit to restrict occupancy at restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments (including nightclubs) to the number of patrons who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other patron, to a maximum of 100 patrons, permitting no more than six patrons per table, requiring operators to ensure patrons lining up or congregating outside of their establishment maintain physical distancing, and mandating that the name and contact information for each patron be collected; Restricting group exercise classes at gyms and other fitness settings to 10 individuals, as well as restricting the total number of people allowed at these facilities to a maximum of 50; and Setting a limit on the number of people allowed at meeting and event facilities, including banquet halls, to six people per table, and 50 people per facility.