Published Thursday, February 18, 2021 1:53PM EST
The two COVID-19 hot spots are set to have their strict pandemic restrictions loosened on Monday but have asked for a delay, saying easing measures next week could lead to more illness and death.
A decision on those two regions, as well as York Region and North Bay, which also remain under a stay-home order, is expected Friday.
Ford said Thursday that he's “always supported local medical officers of health.”
“No one understands their area, in Peel and Toronto, more than their local medical officers of health,” he said. “I'm sure we're gonna follow the advice of the doctors.”
The top doctors for Toronto and Peel penned a joint letter to the province's chief medical officer this week asking for current restrictions to be kept in place until at least March 9.
They cited concerns about the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants and still-high levels of hospitalizations when making their request.
Ford said the province was also concerned about variants.
“We have to keep our guard up constantly,” he said.
Ford's government began gradually lifting the stay-at-home order for parts of the province last week, with restrictions being loosened for the majority of Ontario this week. All those regions were transitioned back to the province's colour-coded restrictions system.
The economic reopening has been taking place despite expert warnings that it might set off a third wave.
In Toronto, the city's top doctor echoed some of those concerns on Wednesday, saying she has “never been as concerned about the threat of COVID-19 to (residents') health as I am now.”
York Region's medical officer of health, however, has said his community is ready to see an easing of the strictest measures.
Dr. Karim Kurji said Thursday that he has recommended York be placed in the red - or second-strictest - category of the province's tiered restrictions system. Under that category, people can access fitness facilities and dine indoors at restaurants, with limits on capacity.
Kurji said his public health unit is concerned about the mental health and economic impacts of the lockdown. He added that public health authorities are still asking people to say home except for essential trips.
The new variants of COVID-19 - of which York Region has detected 258 cases - are concerning, but an aggressive vaccine strategy and other measures will help keep cases low, he said.
“With enhanced restrictions in the Red-Control Zone, along with our strategies for aggressive case and contact investigation and enforcement, we can keep this in check,” Kurji said in a statement.
“We are hopeful for the future.”
The health unit in North Bay Parry Sound did not immediately respond to request for comment on Thursday.
The North Bay area had relatively few COVID-19 cases until earlier this month, when virus variants were detected in a cluster of cases at an apartment building.
The region's top doctor has said he asked the province for more time under strict health orders to control the spread of the contagious variants.
Ontario reported 1,038 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 44 more deaths linked to the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.