‘Big parties are off’ this holiday season, Ontario eyes loosening some restrictions

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Newly released short-term COVID-19 forecasting shows that by Nov. 8, Canada could see between 10,285 and 10,400 deaths, and between 251,800 and 262,000 cases.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

When looking at how the epidemic may evolve in Canada over the next month, the key message from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, is that Canadians need to limit their contacts.

“If we increase or if we even maintain our current rate of contact with others, the epidemic in Canada is forecasted to continue increasing steeply,” Dr. Tam said. “To bend the epidemic curve and reduce transmission to lower levels…we must really reduce our number of contacts as much as possible.”

She indicated that this includes limiting everyday contacts to our households, as much as possible, maintaining physical distancing, good hygiene practices and in areas where the infection rate is high, restrictions and closures may be needed for a period of time to slow the spread of the virus.

“We held our lead on COVID-19 for some time but since resuming more activities over the summer and perhaps slipping on a few of our key dance steps — consistent physical distancing, exemplary hygiene and mask wearing — some of us have lost our lead,” Dr. Tam said. “I know Canadians can dance and take back the lead again.”

“This virus will cut in anywhere and at anytime we let it. So let’s get back in the dance and take the lead.”

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Canada’s COVID-19 cases remain above “peak levels” in the first wave in the spring, with an average of almost 2,800 cases reported daily in the past week. Ontario and Quebec significantly impact the national curve with over 75 per cent of all cases in Canada since the beginning of the pandemic.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

“The growth in Quebec case counts has appeared to gradually stabilize but still averaging around 1,000 cases daily during recent weeks,” Dr. Tam highlighted. “At the same time, over the past two weeks, British Columbia, the Prairie provinces and Ontario have all marked their highest daily case counts since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

As of Oct. 8, 19 health regions reported more than 50 cases per 100,000. That number had almost doubled by Oct. 27, with 34 health regions reporting more than 50 cases per 100,000.

Dr. Tam also highlighted that 26 Indigenous communities are now reporting two or more active cases.

Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada

Although COVID-19 cases have mostly been seen in Canadians between the ages of 20 to 39 recently, Canada is now seeing a “concerning rise” in incidents among people 80 years of age and older, which are particularly at risk of severe illness

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Ontario fitness industry urges members to pressure Ford government to allow gyms to reopen

Goodlife Fitness is urging its members to pressure the Ontario government to allow gyms to reopen in parts of the province where they’ve been forced to close because of rising COVID-19 cases.

In an email sent to members across the province Tuesday, the fitness giant is encouraging its members to write a letter to their local MPP, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott among others.

“Between mandated shutdowns, capacity restrictions, and ongoing questions about the safety of fitness facilities, our industry is facing the most difficult time in its history,” the email reads.

Jason Sheridan, senior vice-president of operations at Goodlife, said the email was sent to more than 175,000 members.

The campaign is led by the Fitness Industry Council of Canada. Other businesses who are part of the industry council will also take part.

“Through this campaign . . . we are keen to advance the discussions with the Ontario government and public health and to help co-create any enhanced guidelines for gyms across Ontario,” Sheridan told the Star.

“We are open to navigating this situation together and working to develop solutions that would allow us to continue to invest in the health and wellness of Ontarians.”

The letter, sent with the subject line Stand Up for Fitness, discusses the impact the shutdown has had on the province’s fitness industry, citing the benefits of physical benefits on mental health during the pandemic and reducing the strain on local health-care systems as a result.

As cases spiked in the province, and concerns that group activity in indoor spaces may be adding to the transmission of the virus, Ford ordered the closure of all gyms in Ottawa and parts of the GTA on Oct. 10.

In Quebec, a group of fitness centre owners says its members are no longer planning to open Thursday in defiance of that government’s lockdown orders.

On Monday, a coalition of more than 250 gym owners threatened to open their doors this week, prompting a warning from Premier Francois Legault that they and their clients would be fined.

Gym owners in Ontario have not gone that far, but are still heated over the impact from the temporary closure.

The office of Lisa MacLeod, Ontario minister of heritage, sport and tourism, acknowledges the struggles the fitness industry is going through but says the government will continue to follow public health advice.

“This is a difficult time for so many businesses that are already struggling, which is why we are working hard to make $300 million available as soon as possible to cover fixed costs,” minister spokesperson Dakota Brasier said.

“We will continue to take prudent and progressive action to reopen based on expert public health advice as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Sweat and Tonic, a Toronto boutique fitness studio is part of an online petition in collaboration with the Ontario Independent Fitness Studios Association and 300 other businesses to advocate for the re-opening of fitness studios.

Morgan Thomas, general manager at Sweat and

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GoodLife Fitness encourages members to write Ontario MPPs in email blast



a large room: File photo - an empty gym.


© Getty Images
File photo – an empty gym.

In an email that was sent wide to its members, GoodLife Fitness is asking gym-goers to email their local Ontario MPPs as the industry is “currently facing serious challenges as a result of the global pandemic.”

“Between mandated shutdowns, capacity restrictions, and ongoing questions about the safety of fitness facilities, our industry is facing the most difficult time in its history,” GoodLife Fitness, one of Canada’s largest gym chains, said in their email with the subject line “Stand Up for Fitness! | Write a Letter to Your M.P.P.”

The Ontario government mandated gyms close for a second time in COVID-19 hotspot regions such as Toronto, Peel Region, Ottawa and, later, York Region as part of modified Stage 2 restrictions.

The closures are expected to last at least 28 days. The government said it will re-assess based on coronavirus numbers if it will lift the restrictions and allow gyms, among other establishments forced to shut down such as indoor dining, casinos, cinemas and performing arts centres to reopen.

Read more: Poor ventilation, panting can increase coronavirus risk at gyms: experts

“As an important contributor to the fitness industry in Ontario, you can help by sending a letter to your Member of Provincial Parliament (M.P.P.). This letter will serve to support the swift reopening of our closed Clubs and to prevent further closures in the province,” the fitness centre wrote.

A sample letter was then provided to members and addressed to Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams.

“We are doing everything we can to work with government and public health experts to be a part of the solution, and to help advise on the decisions they are making for our industry. In order to be as effective as possible in our outreach to government and public health, we need your help!” GoodLife continued in its email.

The gym company said the campaign is being driven by the Fitness Industry Council of Canada.

GoodLife Fitness is facing online backlash on its email.

One user took to Twitter to criticize the fitness company’s move use its members to lobby the government to get gyms either reopened or loosen capacity restrictions.

“Shame on GoodLife Fitness for emailing members to drum up support for reopening. Gyms aren’t safe even with all the hygiene theatre in place. COVID-19 numbers are going wild, it’s time to get used to working out at home,” one Twitter user wrote.

In response, GoodLife Fitness said: “our email is a response to the many members and associates who have inquired about voicing their concerns as our gyms have provided a safe environment for Ontario residents to use. We have taken many measures to help provide members a protected way to workout.”

“People breathing heavily indoors unmasked isn’t safe, no matter how many times things get wiped down,” the Twitter user answered back.

“Many

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Restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended into November, outbreak hits three Ontario hospitals

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Canada-U.S.border restrictions extended

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, announced Monday the non-essential travel restrictions between the Canada-U.S. border will remain until Nov. 21.

“Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair’s tweet reads.

Traditional trick-or-treating not recommended in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Region

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, issued a statement on Monday indicating that “traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended” in cities in modified Stage 2 restrictions – Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Region.

In the statement, Dr. Williams states this is due to the “high transmission” of COVID-19 in these areas.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health recommends “alternative” was to celebrate Halloween in these regions, which include:

  • Encouraging kids to dress up and participate in virtual activities and parties

  • Organizing a Halloween candy hunt with people living in their own household

  • Carving pumpkins

  • Having a movie night or sharing scary stories

  • Decorating front lawns

“It is recommended that you also check with your local municipality or public health unit for any additional advice or restrictions that may be in place,” the statement reads. “It is also critical that families not travel outside of their neighbourhood to celebrate Halloween.”

In order to have a “safe and happy Halloween” in Ontario, Dr. Williams stressed that Ontarios need to avoid gathering with people outside of their household, stay home if feeling at all ill.

For people living outside of the modified Stage 2 regions, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health outlined a number of rules to follow for trick-or-treating.

  • Only go out with members of your household

  • Only trick or treat outside

  • Both trick or treaters and people handing out candy should wear a face covering and a costume mask is not a substitute for a face covering but also should not be worn over a face covering as it may make it difficult to breathe

  • Do not congregate or linger at doorsteps and remember to line up two metres apart if waiting

  • Avoid high-touch surfaces and objects

  • Whether collecting or handing out treats, wash your hands often and thoroughly, or use hand sanitizer

  • Do not leave treats in a bucket or bowl for children to grab and consider using tongs or similar tools to hand out treats

CASES AND OUTBREAKS

Three Toronto hospitals report COVID-19 outbreak

Three Toronto hospitals are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks as confirmed cases in the city continue to rise.

UHN has confirmed that as of Oct. 16,

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Ontario fitness chains ask members from COVID-19 hotspots to not travel to other regions to workout



a sign on the side of a building: People lined up outside of an LA Fitness in Milton


© Thebishk/Twitter
People lined up outside of an LA Fitness in Milton

Prominent fitness chains in Ontario are asking for people residing in COVID-19 hotspots to stop travelling to other jurisdictions to workout.

The Ontario government moved Toronto, Peel and Ottawa back into modified versions of Stage 2 amid a rise in coronavirus cases, which meant gyms would be closed for 28 days effective last Saturday at 12:01 a.m.

Read more: Toronto, Peel Region move into Stage 2 of province’s reopening plan Wednesday

Now, LA Fitness and Goodlife Fitness have released statements telling members from those three regions to not try to workout in other non-hotspot locations after multiple videos surfaced online of lineups outside certain locations.

“Following the travel recommendations provided by the Ontario Government, GoodLife is asking Members from Ottawa, Peel and Toronto not to visit other GoodLife Clubs in regions outside of their own during this temporary closure,” a statement from Goodlife Fitness read on Thursday.

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“All Members in these regions were automatically placed on freeze on Saturday, October 10, and they are not permitted to book workouts at Clubs in surrounding regions using the GoodLife App or Member Portal.”

A statement from LA Fitness read: “We don’t support or encourage members from Higher Transmission Areas where our clubs have been closed to use our clubs that are open in other areas. In response to these concerns, we have sent the clarifying email noted below to the affected members on October 14, and posted this identical message at the open clubs.”

Read more: Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa under Ontario’s modified stage 2

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said people who travel to other locations are only adding to the problem.

“If we have people traveling around outside of their own home area to get some of these services, that’s going to only add to to our numbers and add to the problem. So please stay where you are. Workout at home if you’re able to.”

Premier Doug Ford warned if the situation continues, the government might have to clamp down on other areas.

“If the spread continues, yes, the answer is yes. But again, we can’t police 14 and a half million people,” he said at his daily press conference, however, he did say for the most part, people have been following the new rules.

“Everyone’s pitched in. Everyone’s helped out. Everyone’s followed, for the most part, the guidelines and protocols. So that’s all we’re asking.”

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