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WATCH: ‘You must stay home’: Premier says stay-at-home orders will be enforced

Meanwhile, first phase of vaccine rollout aims to have all staff and residents in long-term care sector receive their first dose by Feb. 15

Premier Doug Ford reiterated a message today he’s been hammering home often of late: Stay home.

In the latest media briefing today in advance of the stay-at-home order that takes effect at 12:01 a.m. tonight, Ford was joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and General Rick Hillier (retired) for an update on the vaccine rollout and the COVID-19 response.

Ford led off the briefing with a straightforward message.

“Unless it is an essential reason — getting food, medicine, visiting the doctor or exercise, going to work — you must, you must — I repeat — you must stay home. It is the law and it will be enforced.”

The premier said abiding by the stay-at-home order is very simple. “If you’re unsure if the trip is essential, it probably isn’t.”

Before turning over the microphone to Hillier for an update on the vaccine rollout, the premier addressed what some have felt is the confusing messaging of the latest lockdown: that most retail stores can remain open for curbside pickup, while big box stores and large retail establishments can still admit customers.

The logic of this, Ford said, is also simple: In much of the GTA, people can get same-day home delivery of most products. That isn’t possible in most of the rest of the province, particularly rural areas like the North. So, most retail establishments have to stay open for curbside pickup so people can still get products they need. As for allowing large retailers to open their doors while small businesses cannot, again Ford said the logic is simple: if people can purchase more products in one place, they don’t have to visit as many locations, cutting down potential interactions with others and helping limit the spread of COVID-19.

Public Health Ontario reported 2,961 new cases of COVID-19 today, (Jan. 13),with 74 additional deaths. Of those, 36 were residents of long-term care homes and one was a health-care worker employed at a long-term care home.

Two of the deaths reported today were individuals between 40 and 59 years old, 20 were individuals between 60 and 79 years old, and 52 were individuals over the age of 80. 

In his update on the vaccine rollout, Hillier said Ontario received 147,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday morning and used more than 140,000 of them by the end of the day.

"As you can see, we are consumed with delivering and administering our vaccines as quickly, efficiently and equitably as possible," said General (Ret'd) Rick Hillier. "Despite the difficult times we find ourselves in, this proves that there is light at the end of the tunnel and, with that in mind, I'm asking everyone to stay strong, stay safe and follow the public health guidelines."

Ontario said today Phase One of the vaccine program aims to get 1.5 million eligible people vaccinated. Vaccination of residents, staff and essential caregivers of long-term care homes has begun in many parts of the province, with the goal of having the first dose administered in all homes by Feb. 15.

Figures provided by the province show vaccines have been administered at 196 locations in Ontario.

More than 144,000 doses of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine have been administered with more than 45,000 vaccinations given to health-care workers in long-term care homes and retirement homes and more than 77,000 vaccinations have been administered to hospital workers.

Vaccinating staff of hospitals and LTC facilities is part of the province’s so-called “iron ring” approach. The rationale is if the staff coming in and out of the facilities — the prime entry method of the virus — are vaccinated they can’t bring the virus in with them.

So far, more than 13,000 vaccinations have been administered to LTC residents. 

As well, an additional 20,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in 158 long-term care homes since Dec. 31, 2020.

Using Ornge, the province has also transported almost 1,290 doses to coastal communities on James Bay and to Sioux Lookout, with 145 vaccines administered to remote fly-in First Nation communities this week.

In terms of the difficult-to-transport Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine (which must be kept at between minus-60 and minus-80 degrees) Ontario is adding three additional vaccination sites: Niagara Health - St. Catharines Site, Kingston General Hospital, and Brantford General Hospital. Because of the temperature limitations, locations administering the Pfizer vaccine are more limited.

On Jan. 11, Ontario received close to 196,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the province said today. Regular weekly shipments of that vaccine expected throughout this month with more delivery sites offering the vaccine by the end of January to key vulnerable populations.

Some 53,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were received Dec. 30, 2020, from the federal government. This first shipment is being used in the COVID-19 hotspots of Toronto, York, Peel and Windsor-Essex to vaccinate residents at long-term care homes and retirement homes, with a goal to have everyone vaccinated by Jan. 21.

When the province enters Phase Two in February or March and lasting through July, the goal, Hillier said, is to vaccinate 8.5 million people.

That effort will begin with the following key groups:

Older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older, and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;

Individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;

Frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, teachers, food processing industry); and

Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.

Phase Three is expected to begin as early as August, pending vaccine availability, and will see the vaccine made available to the general population, under the province’s plan.

As part of Phase Two, the province will expand vaccination sites to include municipally run sites, hospital sites, mobile vaccination sites, pharmacies, clinics, primary care settings and community locations such as community health centres and Indigenous health access centres. These will be for Phase One priority populations to access.

Ontario is encouraging health-care professionals who are able to administer the vaccine to register and apply through Ontario's Matching Portal. This could include nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses, along with pharmacists, pharmacy students, interns and pharmacy technicians.

Individuals interested in supporting the broader COVID-19 vaccination plan in roles such as data entry and scheduling, can also express their interest through Ontario's Matching Portal.