Province confirms 32 new cases

There are 177 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, according to the latest numbers from provincial health officials on Monday morning.

That’s a jump of 32 cases from yesterday afternoon’s official tally. All but nine of those are in the GTA. Five of them have been resolved.

Asked about the possibility of shutting down non-essential businesses in the province, Ford said that “everything’s on the table” but that for now they are heeding the advice of the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams.

As for declaring a state of emergency, Health Minister Christine Elliott said “we don’t believe we are at that stage yet,” but that the situation is evolving rapidly.

Meanwhile, more businesses are voluntarily reducing their hours or outright closing, and stock markets in Toronto and New York plunged when they opened this morning.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has instituted new measures to help the city’s business owners during uncertain economic times.

Here’s a round up of everything else you need to know about COVID-19 in Ontario today:

New measures to help workers

At Monday’s news conference, the province gave details about legislation that would ban employers from demanding sick notes for those in self-isolation or quarantine and ensure protected leave.

“If this law is passed it will ensure that if you are in quarantine because you are experiencing symptoms, or you’ve been asked to self-isolate … you will not lose your job,” said Ford.

The jobs of parents who are affected by school and daycare closures will also be protected.

There is currently no timeline on when the legislation may be passed, but Ford’s office said he is working with the other parties to get it done “as expeditiously as possible.”

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips also said that instead of tabling the 2020 budget, which was set to be released next week, he will put out a fiscal update that is as “current as possible” and which includes a “realistic one-year outlook” given the present circumstances.

“In terms of a full budget, our plan would be by the fall at the latest to release that,” said Phillips.

Ford was also asked about his thoughts on closing the Canadian border. He said he’s open to a shutdown on visitors but not commerce.

Early Monday morning, Mayor John Tory also revealed his plan to help Toronto’s businesses and residents deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Among the immediate measures: a grace period for businesses to pay taxes and new help for Torontonians who want to apply for employment insurance.

Updates coming from Trudeau, province

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. He announced today that Canada is barring entry to all travellers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

There will be exceptions for U.S. citizens, air crew and diplomats.

Similarly, Ontario’s top doctor will provide an update at 3 p.m., while City of Toronto officials will speak to media at 3:45 p.m. Both news conferences will be livestreamed in this story.

Telehealth Ontario resources expanded

To cut down on wait times for callers, the province said Monday they have brought in 130 nurses to help staff the phone line.

“By immediately expanding Telehealth’s resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy,” said Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.

Ontario is also working with the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and its 44,000 members to find more support for Telehealth.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says unless people have severe symptoms or a medical emergency, simply stay at home while waiting for a Telehealth response.

“We understand that people are anxious to get the advice about next steps as soon as possible, which is why the capacity of Telehealth is being enhanced,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

“But unless you are experiencing severe symptoms or a medical emergency, the best place for you to stay is at home until you receive advice, which will often be to stay home and self-monitor.”

Elliott also announced that youth justice facilities have been told to suspend all personal visits and volunteer activities. All “non-essential” leaves for helping youth in custody reintegrate into the community are being restricted.

New closures and warnings

More businesses are opting to voluntarily close down for the time being.

Some Starbucks locations will be closed, as will all GoodLife and Fit4Less fitness centres.

As of today, Cadillac Fairview malls — including Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens, and Fairview Mall — are among those limiting their hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario is also strongly recommending that non-essential and elective dental services be suspended.

Border officer at Pearson tests positive

Late on Sunday, it emerged that an officer with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Toronto Pearson airport had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The agency says it doesn’t know when or where that employee became infected, but says another group of workers who may have had contact with them are now “self-monitoring for symptoms.”

CBSA is also stepping up its COVID-19 measures, with additional officers, extra signage, and a new requirement that travellers coming from international destinations acknowledge they are being asked to self-isolate upon their return.

Possibility of community transmission

No Ontario cases have been confirmed by health authorities as resulting from community transmission, though some experts say it’s likely that this kind of spread is already underway.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, says the province’s current cases are all related to travel.

“They didn’t get it from a community source yet at this time,” he said.

Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam said Sunday that 25,000 COVID-19 tests have been done across the country to date and there has been a “rapidly increasing” number of cases, particularly in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.

“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” Tam said.


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