Ontario Releases COVID-19 Response Framework to Help Keep the Province Safe and Open
Government Provides Additional Details on $300 Million to Support Eligible Businesses
November 3, 2020
TORONTO — In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, the Ontario government has developed the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. It ensures that public health measures are targeted, incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while keeping schools and businesses open, maintaining health system capacity and protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.
Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board, and Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
"It's clear COVID-19 will be with us for a while, which is why we are putting in place a framework that will protect the health and safety of individuals and families, while avoiding broader closures across the province," said Premier Ford. "This framework, developed in consultation with our health experts, will serve as an early warning system allowing us to scale up and scale back public health restrictions on a regional or community basis in response to surges and waves of COVID-19. By introducing public health measures sooner, we can keep this deadly virus at bay, bend the curve and reclaim a little more of our normal lives."
The framework takes a gradual approach that includes introducing preventative measures earlier to help avoid broader closures and allow for additional public health and workplace safety measures to be introduced or removed incrementally. It categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort. Each level outlines the types of public health and workplace safety measures for businesses and organizations. These include targeted measures for specific sectors, institutions and other settings.
"The health and wellbeing of Ontarians is our number one priority. This framework, informed by public health experts, data and the experiences of other jurisdictions, is focused on introducing less invasive measures earlier to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Minister Elliott. "We are committed to being transparent with Ontarians, businesses and local communities as we work together to keep Ontarians safe, while keeping our economy open."
"This framework is critical to ensuring that public health measures are able to help slow the spread of the virus, while also supporting mental health and other social determinants of health," said Dr. Williams. "The framework operates like a dimmer switch, enabling measures and restrictions to be increased and give individuals and families the information they need to adjust their activities and interactions based on local epidemiological data."
As the province continues to expand access to real-time data, enhancements are also being made to Ontario.ca/coronavirus, Ontario's one-stop shop for information on COVID-19. Information about the spread of the virus, and public health and health system capacity will now be available on the website. This includes local cases by public health unit regions, the total number of cases, resolved cases, deaths, and tests completed and how many are positive. The province will continue to add data sets as they become available, such as sources of outbreaks as a subset of overall cases. This information will better help businesses, organizations and local communities access key information to prepare in advance for any changes in their region.
"You deserve to have access to the same information that we have, and that's why our government is enhancing online data and data visualization," said Minister Bethlenfalvy. "Greater transparency means that the people of Ontario have reliable access to the information they need to protect their health, and for businesses to reopen and operate safely. This is another way we're using technology and pursuing innovation to put the people at the centre of government and move Ontario onwards."
To provide the utmost transparency, each public health unit will be classified according to current framework indicators. Proposed classifications based on data for the week of October 26, 2020 can be found below. These will be confirmed by the province on Friday, November 6, 2020 and become effective on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Final decisions on moving public health unit regions into the framework will be made by the government based on updated data and in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, local medical officers of health and other health experts, and will be reviewed weekly.
Going forward, the government will continually assess the impact of public health measures applied to public health unit regions for 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods.
Supporting Businesses Affected by COVID-19 Public Health Measures
The Ontario government is making $300 million available to businesses required to close or significantly restrict services in areas subject to modified Stage 2 public health restrictions (Ottawa, Peel, Toronto, and York Region) or, going forward, in areas categorized as Control or Lockdown.
Rebates will cover the period of time that businesses are required to temporarily close or significantly restrict services as a result of being located in areas subject to the targeted modified Stage 2 public health restrictions or, going forward, in areas categorized as Control or Lockdown. The property tax rebates will be net of any federal support in respect of property taxes provided through the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), so that the rebate will cover costs beyond those covered by CERS.
Beginning November 16, 2020, eligible businesses will be able to apply for temporary property tax and energy cost rebates directly to the province through a single, online application portal. Many businesses should expect to receive their rebate payments within a few weeks of finalizing and submitting their completed application. Eligible businesses include restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas.
"On Thursday, I'll introduce Ontario's 2020 Budget, the next phase of Ontario's Action Plan," said Minister Phillips. "It is a plan that will have three pillars. As we announced yesterday, the first is protect. The second pillar is support, because we know COVID-19 has brought severe challenges and economic difficulties to families and employers. Supporting businesses affected by necessary public health restrictions in regions experiencing a greater risk from COVID-19 is one way we are helping employers manage during these difficult times."
Through Ontario's Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates program, the government is building on its collaboration with federal partners to ensure eligible businesses receive the financial help they need as a result of targeted provincial public health restrictions.