UPDATED: Want to have a party? Prepare to face hefty fines
Ontario Premier Doug Ford may still be mulling over how the provincial social gathering rules will change in areas where COVID-19 cases are emerging, but promised fines will come with them.
"There's going to be some severe, severe fines for people who want to ignore the regulations and the guidelines, so it's going to be severe, they're going to be the highest in the country and they're going to be under provincial jurisdiction," he said.
The premier said the dollar amount for fines will hopefully be released tomorrow.
In Quebec, fines were recently introduced by the provincial government for breaking public health guidelines, including up to $6,000 for refusing to wear a mask indoors when necessary.
Ford was scheduled to meet with municipal mayors and their health officials in places like Toronto, Brampton and Ottawa to discuss how to restrict current social gathering limits.
The current cap is 50 for indoor and 100 for outdoor.
Ontario officials have been pointing to people attending gatherings like weddings and parties while not adhering to guidelines, such as keeping their distance and wearing masks, with many cases involving young adults.
The province reported 315 new cases Wednesday, following days of 251, 313, 204, 232, 213 and 170.
On Wednesday, Toronto's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said Toronto Public Health was tracking four weddings believed to have caused 22 infections.
Other incidents she says are people meeting for their children's playdates, as well as at bars and restaurants.
Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke with Ford today and said he welcomes the fines, adding bylaw officers will be able to enforce them.
"Sometimes the way you have to have a message reach people is by a severe consequence for their actions," Tory said. "We have a problem here and we need people's cooperation to fix it and those who don't want to get with the program should pay a price for that."
But Ford was also challenged on his own behaviour, having recently attended an MPP's wedding, inviting other politicians over for dinner, after traveling to his family cottage earlier in the year after telling others not to.
"All the protocols were followed, every single person in that room had a mask, they had their temperature taken," Ford said of the wedding. "Any time I'm with anyone social gathering, I always make sure we maintain six foot distance with anyone."
Ontario is also looking to expand testing capacity as lineups at assessment centres in urban regions see massive increases.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the goal is to get to 50,000 tests a day within a month in tandem with manageable lab capacity.
Also, the province and the federal government's objective in the Safe Restart Agreement is to reach a surge capacity of 78,000 per day as needed in Ontario.
There's currently 148 assessment centres in Ontario, but Ford said after finalizing agreements soon with retailers and pharmacies, there will be thousands of places to get a test.
As for schools, 12 new COVID-19 cases were reported, including six students, and one in
A dozen new COVID-19 cases were reported in schools, including six students, four staff, and two individuals who were not identified.
Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont. became the first to temporarily close in the province, after three confirmed cases of COVID-19.