TORONTO - Premier Doug Ford tried to pump the brakes Tuesday on enthusiasm for reopening the economy, a day after encouraging new modelling was released, urging patience to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19.
Ford said his government's framework for how and when to reduce and remove various restrictions should be released in the next few days.
He would not give specifics, except to say that one of the first areas may be outdoor activities.
"I'm getting lobbied hard by so many groups and organizations, but it's easy to say, 'Open, open, open,' until we get a second wave of this and it bites us in the backside," Ford said.
"I just ask people to be patient."
Ford said people are so anxious to get back to normal activities that he even got a call from his 12-year-old nephew — the son of the late former Toronto mayor Rob Ford — asking if he will be able to go to camp this summer.
"I said, 'I can't answer that,'" Ford recounted. "He goes, 'Well, find out and get back to me right away.' I thought, really? I'm being lobbied by my 12-year-old nephew, too?"
Ford's comments come a day after new provincial modelling suggested the community spread in Ontario is peaking —though cases in long-term care homes are rising.
Ontario reported 551 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, and 38 new deaths. Ford said that hearing about each death is heartbreaking, and warned that easing restrictions now would lead to even more deaths.
The new provincial total of 11,735 cases on Tuesday was a 4.9 per cent increase over the previous day's total — the lowest growth rate in weeks.
But Ontario's chief medical officer of health said that even removing the new long-term care cases from the new daily numbers, there are still 400 or 500 new community-acquired cases each day.
"Do we still have significant community transmission occurring? It would seem that we do," said Dr. David Williams.
Ontario's curve may now be on a plateau, but hasn't yet started to trend down, Williams noted. When the province was in "containment mode," new cases per day were in the low 200s, he said.
"We have to see it not only at that level and start to come down, but come down fairly significantly in there," he said.
Following up with people who have come into contact with positive cases is much more manageable at that level, Williams said.
At least 399 long-term care residents and one staff member have died amid outbreaks at 128 facilities.
A number of homes have been particularly hard hit, including Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto with 34 deaths and 144 infected, Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon with 29 deaths, Anson Place in Hagersville with 23 deaths, and Altamont Care Community in Toronto with 24 deaths. A personal support worker who worked at that facility also died.
Her union, SEIU Healthcare, said Tuesday it has filed applications with the Ontario Labour Relations Board alleging that Altamont, Anson Place and Eatonville failed to provide proper protective equipment, information and instruction to protect workers and residents.
Sienna Senior Living, which runs Altamont, said it has acted in compliance with health guidelines and applicable legislation, including on personal protective equipment, and "intends to vigorously defend itself against the application."
Responsive Group said the Eatonville and Anson Place facilities have had all the personal protective equipment needed to follow public health directives to protect staff. The company said it will be filing affidavits in response.
The provincial total of cases includes 622 deaths and 5,806 resolved cases — which is nearly half.
Hospitalizations are up, however, from 802 to 859, and the numbers of people in intensive care and on ventilators also rose, albeit slightly.
Ford also highlighted investments Tuesday that his government is making under programs announced in the spring mini budget. Ontario is providing $40 million to help developmental services, child welfare organizations, victims shelters, and groups delivering social services to First Nations buy personal protective equipment and enhance staffing.
The province is also using $11 million to expand Meals on Wheels services and develop the capacity of community organizations to help deliver medication and other essentials to low-income seniors, and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2020.
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