Ontario has only 1 week supply of ‘critical’ protective equipment left, premier says

Ontario currently has just one week’s worth of critical personal protective equipment for front-line health-care workers stockpiled, Premier Doug Ford said Monday.

The Ford government confirmed hours that 500,000 masks were held up by U.S. officials on Sunday, but are being released. Ford said that if the shipment was blocked it would have put a severe strain on the province’s inventory. 

It’s unclear if the shipment will be enough to ensure medical staff don’t run out of supplies.

Ford added that while some Ontario-based manufacturers have started focusing on making personal protective equipment (PPE), they are still “weeks away” from being in the hands of health-care workers.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration ordered key suppliers based in that country to stop exporting protective equipment, drawing backlash from other leaders and from 3M, which produces N95 masks. 

Ford said he has been personally been “engaged with top-ranking U.S. officials to make the case for Canada to be exempted from the presidential order.”

Ontario’s inventory of personal protective equipment for front-line health-care workers is running low, the premier said Monday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Earlier today, Ontario confirmed 309 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 4,347. 

The official tally includes 132 deaths, however CBC News has counted 150 deaths provincewide based on data reported by local public health units. 

The test backlog dropped to just 329 — though some infectious diseases experts have been critical of Ontario’s testing capacity. The province has the lowest per capita testing rates in Canada. 

“We need to do better, we need to rapidly expand our testing. Not just in hospitals, but in out-of-hospitals settings as well,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto.

Ontario public health officials have previously said they hope to be completing more than 5,000 tests per day in the near future. Over the last week, the province has been doing fewer than 4,000 tests per day. 

Watch: An infectious disease specialist says Ontario needs to rapidly scale up its testing capacity

Dr. Isaac Bogoch wades into the ongoing debate over the use of protective masks, and explains why Ontario has to do much better on coronavirus testing. 8:47

The data reported today provides a snapshot of COVID-19 in Ontario as of 4 p.m. ET Sunday.

Some 1,624 cases are now considered resolved, or about 37 per cent of all cases reported. 

Of the total cases in the province:

  • 589 people have been hospitalized (that’s 66 more than the previous update)
  • 216 are in intensive care units (16 more than last update)
  • 160 are on ventilators (6 more than last update)

Public health units in the Greater Toronto Area account for more than 50 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, online learning is set to start at schools across the province today to ensure students get some form of education during the COVID-19 crisis.

School boards have been preparing for weeks to ensure that parents have devices and internet connections so students can take part.

Some schools in the province began assigning work last week.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is asking parents to particularly help younger students through the transition. Lecce will be joined by Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott at a news conference scheduled for 1 p.m. at Queen’s Park.

More long-term care deaths

Public health officials east of Toronto say six COVID-19 patients at a long-term care home in Oshawa have died.

The Durham Region Health Department says 21 others at Hillsdale Terraces are confirmed to have the novel coronavirus.

Durham has seen 15 deaths in COVID-19 patients thus far, and seven have been in long-term care facilities.

At least 46 long-term care facilities in Ontario have been hard hit by the virus, most notably Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon.

As many as 26 residents of the 65-bed facility have died of COVID-19, while at least 24 staff members have also tested positive for the virus. 

The COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Toronto Western Hospital. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Outbreak in Hamilton hospital nursery

St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton declared a COVID-19 outbreak after three of its health-care workers in the special care nursery tested positive.

One had no direct contact with patients or families, while the other two had either limited contact or contact while wearing a protective mask and neither were symptomatic while caring for the babies or family, the health unit said in a statement.

“Contact tracing is underway to ensure all babies, family members and staff/physicians who had direct contact with the positive health-care workers are tested and appropriate measures will be taken to limit transmission,” the statement said.

“No babies or parents in the unit are symptomatic. All are being monitored closely”

The hospital has created a designated space for infants who may have been exposed, and the unit is being deep-cleaned, the health unit said.

COVID-19 cases in remote First Nation

A remote First Nation in northern Ontario says it is the first such community in the region with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority says someone has tested positive in Eabametoong First Nation, also known as Fort Hope First Nation.

The agency says this development is not unexpected, but highlights the unique challenges in dealing with a pandemic in First Nations.

Health officials are recommending limiting all non-essential travel in and out of communities, with both road and air entrances under monitoring.

1 of Canada’s highest-profile court cases delayed

A long-awaited murder trial was supposed to begin today but has now been delayed indefinitely.

Alek Minassian, the man accused in the Yonge Street van attack that was carried out nearly two years ago, faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

The trial was scheduled to begin in front of a judge alone. However, COVID-19 has closed Ontario’s courts, forcing Minassian’s trial and many others to be rescheduled.

Minassian’s lawyer told CBC News that he can’t predict when the trial will get underway, and he understands the uncertainty is hard for victims.

“I’m sure that there are a lot of victims and families who would like to get this matter dealt with as quickly as possible,” said Boris Bytensky.  

“The impacts on the victims are not lost on me, I don’t think they are lost on anybody so for their sake I hope we can get this back as quickly as possible.”

The judge has said the case will turn on Minassian’s state of mind at the time of the attack, as it’s already certain he was behind the wheel.

Troops through GTA

Toronto area residents can expect to see a large number of military personnel and vehicles on the roads starting today.

The Department of National Defence says members of the Joint Task Force Central will be heading from units across Ontario to CFB Borden — about 100 kilometres north of the city.

The department says the aim is to form a task force at Borden so the troops will be ready to respond to any government requests to help deal with COVID-19 or potential spring flooding.

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