With the Easter long weekend hours away, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that all 34 Public Health Regions of Ontario will move into shutdown.
Announced on Thursday, Apr. 1, 2021, the so-call province-wide “emergency brake” will come into effect as of Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and the province intends to keep the plan in place for at least four weeks. Ford said the measures are being taken as a result of the surge in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations across Ontario. He also mentioned the prevalence of cases involving variants of concern, which have also been steadily increasing over the past month.
“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” said Premier Ford. “I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. That is our best protection against this deadly virus.”
Ford stressed that people should remain within their households for Easter, and also mentioned worship services would still be allowed at 15 per cent capacity.
While the shutdown comes with its own set of new or renewed regulations and restrictions, some of those are already in play here in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region, where Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has already extended a Section 22 Class Order that limits the number of people allowed to gather in one space to five, both indoors and outdoors.
According to the provincial government, the measures imposed by the “emergency brake” in order to “help to stop the rapid transmission of COVID-19 variants in communities, protect hospital capacity and save lives” include (but are not limited to):
- Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.
- Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures;
- Prohibiting personal care services;
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only;
- Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions;
- Requiring day camps to close; and,
- Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.
Christine Elliot, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, joined Ford – along with Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table – and made it clear these shutdown measures are not the same as stay-at-home orders. She said stay-at-home-orders were not considered because the provincial government has already seen how “detrimental” those measures can be for both children and adults. Particularly with the warmer weather, the government didn’t want to limit outdoor access and activity, she said.
“Ontario, like many other provinces and jurisdictions around the world, is in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and immediate action is required to help turn the tide,” Elliott said. “Implementing a province-wide emergency brake was not an easy decision to make and is not one we take lightly. As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, the end is in sight, but right now these necessary measures will help to stop the spread of variants in our communities, protect capacity in our health care system, and save lives.”
According to the provincial government, the current COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open, will be paused when this province-wide “emergency brake” comes into effect, and the impacts of the “time-limited measures” will be evaluated throughout the next four weeks to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended. Ford stressed that the government will try to keep schools open and operational as much as possible, that the spring break will continue as planned for the week of April 12, and that child care will remain open during the shutdown “in order to support working families.”
For full details on the shutdown and other measures involved in the “emergency brake,” visit the Ontario government’s COVID-19 shutdown page.
Local announcements based on the province-wide shutdown
Most City of Kingston municipal services will remain unchanged. In a release from the City, dated Thursday, Apr. 1, 2021, the city said waste collection, in-person transactions at City Hall and Bylaw Enforcement will continue as before the province-wide shutdown.
Residents are encouraged to access City services online or by phone. Anyone who does not wish to access services in person and requires services that can’t be processed on-line, may call Customer Service 613-546-0000 or email [email protected].
City Hall remains open for in-person transactions at the Payment Centre and Office of the City Clerk. Residents who visit City Hall will be required to wear a face covering and to practice physical distancing.
Kingston Transit will continue to operate at a reduced service level. The schedule can be reviewed at KingstonTransit.ca/Schedules.
The Kingston Area Recycling Centre (KARC) will operate with reduced hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Saturdays).
The Household Hazardous Waste Depot will operate on Thursdays (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) only and will not operate on Saturdays, effective April 3.
The Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL) will return to curbside pickup only as of Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021. Those with KFPL suggest library users pair their curbside pickups with other essential trips. For more details, visit the KFPL website.
All indoor recreation facilities and programs will be closed effective April 2 and will remain closed during the provincial shutdown. This includes:
- Artillery Park Aquatic Centre, 382 Bagot St.,
- Cataraqui Community Centre, 1030 Sunnyside Rd.,
- INVISTA Centre, 1350 Gardiners Rd., CaraCo Field remains open
- Rideau Heights Community Centre and Library, 85 MacCauley St. Kingston Frontenac Public Library will offer curbside pickup starting Saturday, April 3.
The City said program and facility bookings will be refunded. April’s monthly payments for fitness memberships are suspended. Clients who have a Fit Pass, Wellness Pass, Gym Pass or Pool Pass memberships do not need to contact the City – their PLAY accounts will be automatically adjusted.
One month will be automatically added to the accounts of clients who pre-paid for their annual fitness memberships. Further information will be sent directly to user groups regarding specific facility bookings.
The COVID-19 Vaccine clinic at the INVISTA Centre remains open for booked appointments. Residents are reminded to park at the south end of the INVISTA Centre and access the clinic through the south entrance. KFL&A Public Health asks residents to not arrive more than 10 minutes before their appointments and to wait in their vehicles or outside (maintain 2 metres of physical distance from others). For more information about booking an appointment visit the KFL&A Public Health website.
The Kingston Grand Theatre, the Baby Grand and the Regina Rosen Auditorium are closed. The Box Office is available for contact through phone inquiries Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Patrons may call 613-530-2050 or e-mail [email protected]
- The PumpHouse Museum is temporarily closed and will remain closed until further notice in accordance with the Provincewide Shutdown.
- The Market Wing Cultural Space and Heritage Resource Centre located within City Hall are closed and in-person service is not available.
Planning, Building and Licensing services:
- The municipal building at 1211 John Counter Blvd. remains open. Planning and building services including inspections and planning approval processes remain unchanged.
- Inspections within private residences are suspended, unless the inspection is related to an immediate health and safety concern.
Parks, outdoor recreation amenities and trails
Outdoor recreation amenities including public trails and playgrounds remain open. Any person who enters or uses an outdoor amenity must maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from other persons using the amenity (excluding members of the same household).
All North Frontenac municipal facilities will close to the public on Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021. This includes all municipal officers, community halls, and the Ompah Library. All Waste Disposal Sites remain open, regularly scheduled hours, and emergency services remain in operation.
Township offices in South Frontenac will remain open to the public, however, residents are strongly encouraged to make inquiries via email and phone as much as possible and to limit in-person business to payments and/or document pickup or delivery only. For the duration of the shutdown, any appointments or consultations with Township personnel
will occur via telephone or Zoom video call, or be rescheduled for a later date following the lifting of restrictions, according to a release from the township.
- The Township’s community centres and halls will be closed for the duration of the lockdown. Any residents with bookings during this period will be contacted by staff to cancel/reschedule reservations.
- Team sports are not permitted during this time, and net court sports will only be available for singles play. Municipal parks and outdoor recreational facilities will remain open, but all users must adhere to Public Health measures, including physical distancing of at least 2 meters, and no groups of more than 5 people.
- With the Interim Tax installment due April 30, 2021, residents are reminded that payments can be made electronically through online banking or at their financial institution, online via credit card or through Virtual Municipal Office, through the mail via cheque, dropped off at our office using the drop box, or in person at 4432 George St. in Sydenham using cheque, debit, or cash.
- There will be no change to Building Services as the new emergency brake does not restrict any type of construction at this time. Residents are encouraged to contact Building Services via telephone at 613-376-3027 ext. 2226, via email at [email protected], or utilize our drop box located at 4432 George St., in Sydenham for correspondence, permits or other building-related matters during the Provincial shutdown.
- Other than regularly scheduled closures due to holidays, Township waste sites will remain open during the shutdown.
In Greater Napanee, municipal services that are unavailable due to the shutdown, beginning on Saturday, Apr. 3, 2021, are:
- ice rentals and any sports programs are suspended until further notice.
- Building inspections will be performed for new construction projects only at this time. There will be no building inspections for occupied buildings until further notice.
- Water meter change outs in occupied buildings will cease until further notice.
- No property standards inspections within an occupied building will be conducted until further notice
Those in Napanee are encouraged to check back with the town website often for any updates.
Kingstonist will continue to update this article as more information becomes available locally.