Premier Ford to speak as Ontario considers COVID-19 ‘red zones’ amid record-high new cases

Premier Ford to speak as Ontario considers COVID-19 ‘red zones’ amid record-high new cases

Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. at Queen’s Park. Notably, Ford’s office says he will be joined by several senior members of the province’s COVID-19 command table, including Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Dirk Huyer, chief coroner for Ontario and co-ordinator of the provincial outbreak response and Mathew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health.

You can watch it live in this story.


Ontario is considering new COVID-19 alert levels, a colour-coded system that could see Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region declared as “red zones” effective today, CBC News has learned, as the province reported a record-high 732 new cases of the illness. 

The proposal for classing regions under escalating threat levels from green through yellow, orange and red is to go before Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet, according to two sources with knowledge of the plan. 

Officials with the premier’s office and the Ministry of Health declined to confirm or deny that Ontario is moving toward a colour-coded system similar to Quebec’s, saying this morning that nothing has been approved by cabinet. 

The declaration of a red zone would come with tighter public health restrictions on restaurants, gyms, workplaces and meeting spaces. 

Ford and his health advisers will ask people in the red zones not to come into close contact with anyone outside their household, and will recommend against gathering at Thanksgiving with any family members who are aged 70 and over or have health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19, both sources told CBC News. 

In the red zones, masks would be mandatory in indoor workplaces and restaurants would be limited to seating a maximum of six diners at a table, said both sources. 

One source said group fitness classes at gyms would be banned, while the other said they would be limited to a maximum of 10 people. 

Test backlog grows to more than 90,500

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 732 additional cases of COVID-19 today.

Toronto saw the most new cases with 323, though Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that some cases confirmed in the spring were included in today’s number due to a data review by Toronto Public Health.

Ottawa recorded 141 more cases and Peel 111.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases include:

  • York Region: 38
  • Durham Region: 34
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 13
  • Halton Region: 11
  • Niagara Region: 11
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 10

About 58 per cent of the newly confirmed infections are in people under 40 years old, Elliott noted, including 30 in students.

The previous record of 700 new cases came just five days ago on September 28. 

The province’s official COVID-19 death toll took a considerable jump, increasing by 76 to 2,927. However 74 of those deaths were “reported for cases that occurred in the spring or summer and are now being recorded as part of a data review and data cleaning initiative,” the Ministry of Health said.

Ontario’s network of labs processed 40,093 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday, while the backlog of tests waiting to be completed grew to more than 90,500 — by far the most since the outbreak in late January.

One of the sources told CBC News that Ontario will shut down some COVID-19 assessment centres for one day to give laboratories some extra time to work through the backlog. Assessment centres will also move to an appointment-only system, said the source.  

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued its slow but steady climb, increasing by seven up to 167. Thirty-eight of those people are being treated in intensive care units, and 21 are on ventilators.

The number of confirmed outbreaks in long-term care homes is now at 44.

Ontario’s network of labs processed more than 40,000 test samples for the novel coronavirus Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

RNAO calls for tighter restrictions

The Registered Nurses Association (RNAO) called on the provincial government Friday to immediately impose stricter public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

“Urgent action is needed to prevent a full lockdown later on. This is something we have implored government officials to do, but their actions are timid and ineffective,” said RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun in a statement posted online.

Grinspun adding that “the numbers will get much higher unless immediate action is taken to stem the rising tide.”

The letter urges the closure of bars, indoor dining, places of worship and gyms across the province.


Still have questions about COVID-19? These CBC News stories will help.

Will Ontario be able to track down everyone who came in contact with those who have COVID-19?

Doctors are warning the surge in cases will strain the contact-tracing system

Is another lockdown coming in Ontario? What do we know about the Ford government’s fall plan?

CBC Queen’s Park reporter Mike Crawley obtained a draft copy of the plan

What’s the latest on where I should get tested?

It’s confusing, but here’s an explainer complete with a flow chart

What’s happening in Ontario schools and child-care centres?

The province just changed its rules around runny noses, and you see what schools have COVID-19 outbreaks on this provincial site

What’s the most recent guidance on mask use?

Reporter Lauren Pelley took a look at what the experts are advising

Who is getting COVID-19?

CBC News crunched the data from across Canada to get the clearest picture possible

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