Public health officials in Ontario confirmed 100 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 688.
The tally includes another death, meaning the novel coronavirus has now been linked to nine deaths throughout the province. There are still eight cases that are considered resolved.
At least five of the new cases are hospitalized, including a Peel Region woman in her 20s.
There are also people who had travelled to the U.K, U.S., Egypt, Peru, Spain and the Bahamas.
Details for dozens of other cases are listed as pending.
Some 10,489 people are still awaiting test results, while 35,635 have been approved for testing since the start of the outbreak, now considered a global pandemic.
Nurses demand governments provide more protective equipment
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is calling on the provincial and federal governments to supply frontline healthcare workers with more personal protective equipment, including masks, warning there’s already a shortage at hospitals across the province.
“The evidence of asymptomatic infection of COVID-19 necessitates that all health-care workers facing patients, residents and clients wear a surgical mask at all times,” the organization said in a news release on Wednesday.
“We are in a war and the enemy is the COVID-19 virus.”
The Ontario government has repeatedly said it’s working hard to ensure healthcare workers have the protection they need. As of Tuesday, the government said it had secured 12 million sets of surgical gloves, a million N95 respirators and nearly six million more surgical masks.
It’s also looking at deploying a stockpile of some 55-million expired N95 masks that it acquired during the SARS crisis.
“Under consideration is using expired N95 respirators for fit tests or training (preserving non-expired N95s for patient care), as well as in lieu of surgical masks,” said Hayley Chazan, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott, in an email.
Brampton MP tests positive for COVID-19
Among the new cases is Brampton Liberal MP Kamal Khera.
Khera, who represents the riding of Brampton West, said in a statement posted to social media that she began developing flu-like symptoms while isolating at home. She said she was tested Monday morning at Peel Memorial Centre and learned that she was infected last night.
Khera said she is experiencing symptoms but remains in “good spirits.” Her office remains operational and her staff are working from home, Khera added.
Meanwhile, a Brampton bus driver has also tested positive for COVID-19, the city said.
In a statement, the city said it learned of the case on Monday evening. The driver is at home in self-isolation, it added.
It marks the first COVID-19 infection in a Brampton Transit employee, the city said.
The driver worked on the following routes:
- 11 Steeles.
- 51 Hereford.
- 53 Ray Lawson.
- 57 Charolais.
Peel Public Health is reaching out to other employees who would have had close contact with the driver and they will be directed to self-isolate for 14 days.
The city said that public health officials informed it that “there is no additional risk to the riders on the Transit bus than there would be in the general community.”
1st day of 2-week shutdown
All non-essential businesses in Ontario are closed as of today.
Premier Doug Ford’s order to shut shop for at least 14 days took effect just before midnight.
But many companies will still be doing business after being designated as essential by the government.
They include construction firms, utilities, health-care professionals, veterinarians, grocery stores and pharmacies.
Drone video shot by CBC News on Tuesday shows relentless pleas for people to stay at home are having a dramatic effect on life in Toronto.
The video captured empty parks and eerily quiet streets in parts of the city that are usually bustling. Even the Gardiner Expressway, normally packed with vehicle traffic, was mostly an open road.
Hotline for businesses
The provincial government said Wednesday it has launched a toll-free telephone line for business owners with questions about the premier’s order to close at-risk workplaces.
The “Stop the Spread Business Information Line” can be reached at 1-888-444-3659.
The province said it will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week until the order is lifted.
Fiscal update coming today
Ontario’s finance minister is set to release a fiscal update later today.
Rod Phillips was originally supposed to present a full budget, but opted not to in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phillips says the update will contain a one-year outlook based on the new economic realities caused by COVID-19 and will also serve as an important signal to the many groups the province funds such as municipalities, school boards and hospitals.
“It’s also going to make clear to Ontarians we’ve got the money to support our health-care system, we’re going to be supporting jobs and people as well and that their government has a plan,” he said.
The outlook won’t contain any long-term fiscal projections, something normally seen in a provincial budget. The unpredictable circumstances surrounding the pandemic make things too uncertain, Phillips added.
“What we won’t be doing tomorrow is providing any multi-year projections,” he said Tuesday. “That’s because it would be impossible to do so at this time. We’ll do that, hopefully, when the dust has cleared and we have a better sense of things.”
Philips is set to deliver the update starting at 4 p.m.
Tenant rights groups call for help
Tenant advocacy groups across the country are expected to formally ask governments for help paying rent today as an April first deadline looms.
Many renters have been left scrambling as the COVID-19 outbreak shuts down businesses and causes thousands of job losses.
Landlords say they still have to worry about paying mortgages, taxes and other expenses during the pandemic.
But Geordie Dent, the executive director of Toronto’s Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, says many renters won’t be able to make their payments without help.
He says that tenant associations across the country plan on issuing a joint statement today seeking some kind of government relief.