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This article was published 21/7/2020 (674 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TORONTO - Premier Doug Ford pleaded with youth across the province on Tuesday to curb their partying and follow public health rules amid a recent spike in COVID-19 cases among the younger demographic.
A frustrated Ford stressed during his daily pandemic press conference that young people who violate the public health measures are endangering their families, especially their parents and grandparents.
The premier's remarks came as Ontario reported more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since late June. Case numbers have climbed in recent days since nearly falling below 100 last week.
The province's health minister said most of the cases reported Tuesday were in people aged under 39 and Ford said he believed the spike could be attributed to a small group.
"The vast majority, 98% of all these young folks, are following protocol procedures and a couple percent are going a little hog wild," Ford said. "Guys, you got to rein it in. Simple as that."
Ford's call comes as the bulk of the province enters the latest phase of the government's COVID-19 economic recovery plan. Two dozen public health regions moved into Stage 3 last week, with another seven poised to join them on Friday.
Under Stage 3 regulations, businesses including bars and restaurants will be able to welcome patrons indoors for the first time in months while still respecting physical distancing.
But in spite of those relaxed rules, private parties should be avoided, Ford said.
The premier also urged families to emphasize the importance of following physical distancing and social bubble rules to their younger members.
He said the province has no current plans to take action against young people who break the rules, such as imposing extra fines.
"I just asked people just hold off on these parties," he said. "I don't know why everyone wants to party so badly, enough. We have to keep this in control."
Health Minister Christine Elliott singled out notable increases in case numbers outside the Greater Toronto Area, including 43 new cases in Ottawa and 24 in the Windsor-Essex region. She said 57 of the new cases were reported in Peel Region, one of three alongside Toronto itself and Windsor-Essex that are remaining in Stage 2 for now.
There was one new death reported Tuesday alongside 203 new cases, the highest single-day surge in the province since June 29.
Elliott, who said 57 per cent of Tuesday's new diagnoses came in people under the age of 39, called the latest figures "concerning" and urged Ontario residents to redouble their personal health precautions.
"Ontarians of all ages need to continue to adhere to public health guidelines," she wrote in a tweet. "Maintain only one social circle of 10 people, physically distance with anyone outside of it and wear a face covering when doing so."
The total number of cases in the province now stands at 37,942, which includes 2,753 deaths and 33,605 resolved cases.
There were 92 resolved cases newly reported on Tuesday, meaning new cases have outpaced newly resolved cases for multiple days in a row.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said that indoor social interaction with alcohol represents one of the riskiest activities when it comes to catching COVID-19. The government has shown little interest, beyond rhetoric, in taking action to address it, he said.
"I don't see much evidence of a focus on intervention in the younger age group," he said. "We're measuring it, we're detecting it, we're commentating on it, but we don't seem to be doing much beyond that."
Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservative government passed a law that will allow it to extend or amend some emergency orders a month at a time, for up to two years.
The government can now move parts of the province back to earlier stages of the pandemic lockdown if required. It could also continue the redeployment of health-care staff and change public health orders limiting social gatherings.
The bill has prompted criticism from groups on both sides of the political spectrum as a violation of charter rights.
One Tory legislator broke ranks with the government and voted against the measure. Belinda Karahalios called the bill an "unnecessary overreach" on parliamentary democracy.
"By transferring away the ability for Ontario MPPs to consider, debate, and vote on how emergency powers are used on Ontarians, Bill 195 essentially silences every single Ontario MPP on the most important issue facing our legislature today," she said in a statement.
Shortly after the bill was passed, the Conservatives announced Karahalios had been ejected from caucus as a result of her vote.
Green party leader Mike Schreiner said the government does not need the powers granted to it under the new law. It should return to the legislature and seek consent if it needs to restart the state of emergency in the province, he said.
"To provide this government with emergency powers that affect our civil liberties (and) our constitutional rights ... for up to two years whether we're in a state of emergency or not, is wrong," he said.
-with files from Salmaan Farooqui.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020.