Amid rising COVID-19 case counts and ICU admissions, medical officers of health for three major public health units in Ontario issued a joint letter calling on the Ford government to issue an immediate stay-at-home order for the province. The province has been registering 3,000 cases a day for the past couple of days.

The letter addressed to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams was signed by Dr. Eileen de Villa of Toronto, Dr. Lawrence C. Loh of Peel Region, and Dr. Vera Etches of Ottawa co-signed it. Etches shared a copy of the letter on Monday in a tweet urging people in Ottawa to mask up, keep their distance and stay home.

“A stay-at-home order issued by the Province through an Emergency Order is necessary to prevent and mitigate large scale morbidity and mortality and irreparable strain on the health care system,” the letter said. “Stricter lockdowns have been shown to be effective in other countries to control transmission while vaccine campaigns progressed to achieve sufficient population coverage to suppress transmission.”

In addition to the stay-at-home order, the medical officers of health asked Dr. Williams to revisit the list of businesses and services deemed essential in Ontario. They also want the province  to implement staffing limits of no more than 50 per cent for essential businesses and services.

The doctors called on the Ford government to impose travel restrictions between regions in Ontario as well as move schools to “online or hybrid learning where local jurisdictions’ school outbreaks are significant and capacity to manage is stretched.”

The plea was made a day before Peel’s top doctor issued a Section 22 Order moving his region’s schools to online learning for at least two weeks. Toronto and Ottawa said Monday that schools will remain open in their public health units for now.

Meanwhile media reported Tuesday that Toronto Public Health is recommending the temporary dismissal of all students at 20 Toronto schools as they investigate COVID-19 cases at those facilities. This includes schools within the TDSB and TCDSB, as well as one independent school. The health unit says it continues to make decisions about school dismissals on a case-by-case basis.

The province says it is avoiding the stay-at-home order because of its repercussions on mental health.

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