LCBO employee tests positive for COVID-19 as Ontario's tally climbs to 993
135 new cases including police officer, 4 in shelter system along with 3 deaths reported Friday
An LCBO employee has tested positive for COVID-19, it was announced late Friday, as Ontario confirmed 135 new cases, including three deaths linked to the illness.
The new cases bring the provincial tally to 993, which include a Toronto police officer, a TTC employee and four people in the city's shelter system.
So far, the province has seen 18 deaths, while eight cases considered resolved. One of the new deaths includes a woman in her 80s from York Region.
On Friday night, the LCBO said an employee at its 1115 Lodestar Road location (at Allen Road and Rimrock Road in Toronto) tested positive for COVID-19 — marking the first confirmed case for the company.
"The last shift worked in the store by this employee was on Friday, March 20," LCBO said in a statement, adding that it's monitoring this situation very closely and putting systems in place to help support the affected worker.
"When we were informed of this news last night, we took action by closing the store, connecting with all employees, and connecting with Toronto Public Health," the statement reads.
LCBO said the Lodestar Road location remains closed until further notice.
Some 41,032 people have been approved for testing province-wide.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said the province has started to make progress on a backlog of pending test results. The number dropped for the first time Friday, from nearly 11,000 to just over 10,000.
60 hospitalized, of which 32 on ventilators
Some 10,074 people are awaiting test results, 891 fewer tests than were pending as of Thursday evening.
Health officials said that with more lab testing sites opening and more reagent — the chemical substance needed for testing — on the way, they hope that number continues to drop. The hope is for Ontario to do 5,000 tests a day by the end of the weekend.
The province briefly uploaded details about many of the new cases online, but quickly replaced it with a message saying that "information for all cases today is pending."
No new cases were reported as of Friday 5:30 p.m.
Sixty of the province's confirmed COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, said Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe at a news conference on Friday. Of those cases, 43 are in intensive care units, and of those 32 are on ventilators.
Ontarians received emergency alerts on their cellphones, radios and TVs at 2 p.m. Friday, warning recent travellers to stay at home.
"TRAVELLERS RETURNING TO ONTARIO You are at high risk of spreading COVID-19," the alert will read. "You are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days. DO NOT visit stores, family or friends. Everyone should stay home to stop the spread," the alert read.
'Please stay at home,' says premier
Premier Doug Ford said the alert is meant to keep public informed, especially those who are returning to Canada and may not have had access to the news coming out of the country or province.
"When people are away they may not be able to hear the news. When they come home, we're telling them it's not business as usual. Please stay at home," Ford said at a news conference on Friday.
The federal government recently passed an order requiring people arriving in Canada by land, air or sea, to self-isolate for 14 days, with penalties of up to $1 million or three years in prison.
With so many Canadians returning home from abroad recently, Dr. Williams, said last week and this week are both a "critical" time for everyone to keep practising social distancing.
"After a number of days some people would say, 'I guess it's not a big deal,'" Williams said of the self-isolation orders returning Canadians must undergo. "[The emergency alert was] a good way to remind the public to stay the course ... sometimes we all need those prompters."
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1st case of community spread in Niagara
On Friday, Niagara region reported its first case of community spread: a man in his 30s with no travel history who tested positive for COVID-19.
"We believe this infection was due to community exposure within Ontario," said Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health at Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services in a statement issued Friday.
The man is a staff member at Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School who worked while he was infectious.
"Public Health has recommended that the school community monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms for the next 14 days," the statement continued, adding the man is now home in self-isolation.
Staff and students at the school have been notified.
Oshawa grocery store employee dies
The 48-year-old Bowmanville man is Durham region's third death connected to COVID-19, and the 39th in Canada. He died in hospital Wednesday.
Saunders was in his late 40s and had not travelled outside the country.
His wife, Katy Saunders, called Saunders her "soul mate and angel."
In a Facebook post, she wrote that she's doing her "best to try and navigate this nightmare."
The Gibb Street store's Facebook page reads Saunders was last in the store on March 16. Durham Public Health says the risk to customers is very low.
LCBO installing barriers at check-out, union says
Meanwhile, the union that represents LCBO workers says the provincial alcohol retailer has agreed to install Plexiglass barriers at check-out counters to better protect staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) said in a statement that the LCBO will also committed to limiting the number of customers in any location at a given time and provide security guards to enforce the cap.
"If the LCBO is going to stay open, it must put in place any and all measures necessary to keep workers and the public safe," said OPSEU President Smokey Thomas.
"We respect the decision to stay open to help a vulnerable population, however we want to ensure all the necessary precautions are implemented to protect our workers and the public."
The LCBO was deemed an essential business by the provincial government earlier this week and will keep its doors open as many other retailers in Ontario shut down for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
2 more GTA grocery store employees test positive
The Longo's grocery chain reported that one of its store employees, as well as a driver from its Grocery Gateway delivery division, have tested positive for COVID-19.
The store employee worked at the company's Weston Road location in Woodbridge. The location has been closed until Saturday, March 28.
"It is slated to re-open in the morning after a full investigation of the situation and after the implementation of appropriate measures based on the advice and guidance of public health," said a spokesperson for Longo's in an email to CBC Toronto.
Further, the company said it has sent an email to all customers who may have had contact with the Grocery Gateway driver in the last 14 days.
"Health authorities continue to advise us that the risk of grocery delivery remains low," Longo's said in a statement.
At the news conference on Friday Premier Ford called grocery store employees "unsung heroes."
"We need to thank the person at the cash register and the person stocking the shelves. I just want to thank them, thank them for their service," he said.
NDP leader calls on Ford government to help tenants
NDP leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the Ontario government to help tenants who can't pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horwath says in a statement that her party wants Premier Doug Ford to provide direct financial support to households so they can make rent and make it illegal to evict a tenant during the public health crisis.
There is currently an effective ban on evictions in Ontario as the Landlord and Tenant Board has suspended all hearings for the duration of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
As rent comes due on April 1, landlord and tenant associations across Canada have been calling for some kind of relief package from provincial, territorial and federal governments.
An unprecedented number of people have been laid off across the country as governments have forced non-essential businesses to close over the past week.
In a news conference Thursday, Ford urged anyone who can pay rent to do so, while promising those who can't that they will not be evicted.
Toronto health-care worker makes tough choice
Marci Halls, a cardiac technologist at a Toronto hospital, spoke to CBC News Friday morning about her decision to send her young son to live with this grandparents in London, Ont., during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Being a single mom and coming to work, it gets really hard to keep your child safe," she told News Network. "We run the risk, every time we leave for work, of bringing the virus back home."
Halls documented her last day at home with her son in a series of Instagram posts.
"It was easily the hardest day of my life," she said. "It's just him and I so much. Not knowing when I'll get to physically touch him again was just devastating."
Watch: Marci Halls explains why she sent her son away during the COVID-19 outbreak
Halls said she hopes that her videos and posts will help the public understand the sacrifices that health-care workers are making, and encourage people to stay at home and take the outbreak seriously.
"There are so, so many major sacrifices being made every day by so many people on so many levels."
Restaurant industry calls for help
Canadian restaurant owners and food service workers have started a campaign called #OneTable in an effort to secure federal support.
The group is calling for immediate financial relief, protection from being locked out of their locations by landlords and help to reopen and rehire employees once anti-coronavirus measures are eased.
It has also posted guides for restaurant and franchise owners, as well as others in the industry, who may have questions about how to handle the unprecedented circumstances.
Watch: Restaurants owners and chefs plea for federal financial support
More long-term care home deaths
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says two members of a long-term care home have died after developing symptoms following a COVID-19 outbreak.
One resident died Tuesday and another on Wednesday at the Pinecrest Nursing Home.
The two who died were not tested for COVID-19.
The deaths came after three residents tested positive on March 20.
Fourteen staff members were confirmed to have tested positive as of Thursday, while four have had negative results and 16 are still waiting.
Thirty-three other people at the home have developed symptoms.
Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, the medical officer of health for the unit, calls it the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the province.
"This outbreak of COVID-19 is currently the largest outbreak in the province and really brings home how devastating and deadly this virus can be for older people in our communities," Noseworthy said in a statement.
Various procedures to try to stop the spread were implemented once the outbreak was confirmed, "but given the incubation period of the virus, many staff and residents were probably already infected," Noseworthy said.
With files from Stephanie Matteis, The Canadian Press