Ontario to shut down some construction industry sectors amid COVID-19 outbreak, premier says

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will be shutting down some parts of the province’s construction industry amid efforts to contain COVID-19.

The changes come as the government updates its list of essential businesses and services in response to recommendations from public health officials to further restrict physical interactions between people.

Private sector industrial, commercial and institutional projects will be affected, while public sector infrastructure work and some residential construction will be allowed to continue.

Projects related to the health-care sector, including any work necessary to ensure the production of critical equipment and medical devices, as well those required to maintain the operations of petrochemical plants and refineries, will be exempted from the shut down.

More details are expected later this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the province’s top health officials revealed projections that suggests COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people in the province over the course of the pandemic, which could last up to two years. You can read more about that here, or review the province’s presentation of that data for yourself at the bottom of this story.

“I think it’s important that we’re all robustly realistic about the scale of the challenge we face,” Dr. Peter Donnelly, who heads Public Health Ontario, said at the news conference on Friday.

But those projections also show that Ontario’s actions so far to slow the spread of COVID-19 have prevented thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases, and that stricter action today would save hundreds more lives.

Just two days ago Premier Doug Ford resisted calls to release the projections. Now, he says the move could also serve as a “wake-up call” to some Ontarians who aren’t taking physical distancing measures seriously.

Ford is scheduled to speak at 2:00 p.m. CBC Toronto will carry that live in the player above. 

Provincial total of cases up to 3,255

Ontario confirmed 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 3,255.

The official tally includes 67 deaths, however CBC News has accumulated data from local public health units and counted 81 deaths in the province.

Another 1,023 cases are considered resolved — a roughly 30 per cent jump since the last update.

Some 1,245 people are awaiting test results, more than 800 fewer than Thursday. A total of 66,753 tests have been administered provincewide.

The newest data provides a snapshot of the situation in Ontario as of 4 p.m. ET yesterday.

In terms of hospitalizations:

  • 462 cases of COVID-19 have been hospitalized.
  • 194 cases are in intensive care units.
  • 140 cases are on ventilators.

The province also offered this breakdown of cases since Jan. 15, 2020:

  • 48.5 per cent are male, while 50.9 per cent are female.
  • About 32 per cent of cases are 60 years of age and older.
  • Greater Toronto Area public health units account for 53 per cent of cases.

Meanwhile, a nursing home in central Ontario is reporting four more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 20.

The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

It’s not yet clear if the four new deaths there were included in the province’s updated death toll.

False test results in Peel

Meanwhile, a regional health unit west of Toronto has apologized after it mistakenly mailed letters to 16 people telling them that their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were in fact positive.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, interim medical officer of health in Peel, said in a statement that the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday. His unit was made aware of the errors late Thursday, he added.

“I know the relief those residents felt for a few moments has sadly been transformed into feelings of fear and uncertainty. Our team is working quickly to notify these residents and make sure they have what they need to manage this difficult situation,” Loh said.

An investigation revealed that several positive test slips were mixed with a batch of negative results received from labs, according to Loh. Peel’s health unit has changed its process to avoid repeating the mistakes again.

“On behalf of the Region of Peel, I extend apologies to those residents impacted by this error,” Loh said.

Online portal for test results

Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced a new online site for the public to access their COVID-19 test results.

The hope is that it will ease the burden on local public health units “so that they can better focus on containing COVID-19,” Elliott said in a news release.

Further, the province also issued a new order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to give health units more flexibility through hiring retired nurses, medical students and volunteers.

The order comes after Ontario’s top medical official recommended more aggressive contact tracing to track community spread of the coronavirus.


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