Ontario confirms 308 new COVID-19 cases, state of emergency to be pushed to June 2
COVID-19 death toll in Ontario sits at 1,776, according to a CBC count
Ontario reported 308 additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the third straight day that the growth rate in new cases has been below 2 per cent.
The province has now seen a total of 20,546 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Nearly 74 per cent of those are now resolved.
Ontario's official death toll rose to 1,669, an increase of 35 since the last update. Data compiled from regional public health units, however, puts the actual death toll at at least 1,776.
The province's network of labs processed 13,970 tests, a decrease from a record 17,618 the day before last and below the 16,000 tests per day target instituted last week. The backlog of tests now sits at 9,018.
After dropping by 55 on Sunday, the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals shot back up to 1,027, an increase of 66. The number of those in intensive care units remained steady, falling by one to 194, while patients on ventilators increased by seven to 147.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said the last several days represent a welcome "down-going trend," which may allow the province to move into its next recovery phase. Ontario has said it is looking for a two to four week decline in new cases before lifting some measures.
"We're anticipating whether we can really enter the next phase of the recovery from the pandemic," Williams said Monday afternoon.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also generated some confusion during his Monday news conference when he announced that two of his daughters visited his home on Sunday to celebrate Mother's Day.
The six-person gathering appears to have contravened public health guidelines around physical distancing, which call for Ontario residents to avoid gatherings of more than five people, unless they all live in the same household.
"I think if we can keep it to as small as possible gatherings that would be very helpful," Ford said of the visit.
Question period returning to legislature
Ontario's legislature will sit Tuesday and is expected to extend the province's state of emergency to June 2, while also holding question period again.
A statement from the government house leader's office says unanimous consent is expected to quickly vote on all stages of the bill to extend the state of emergency past its current expiry of May 19.
The state of emergency is dealt with separately from the emergency orders, which cover closures of bars and restaurants, except for take-out and delivery, theatres, outdoor amenities such as playgrounds, and child care centres.
Politicians have returned to the chamber — with physical distancing protocols — several times since the pandemic began to extend the state of emergency, but have now also agreed to regular question periods.
The sessions will be held Tuesday, as well as May 19, 20, 26, 27, June 2 and 3.
The government says it is consulting with opposition parties about the possibility of extending sittings into the summer.
Only 42 out of Ontario's 124 members will be allowed in the chamber at any given time to ensure physical distancing.
Members are also expected to agree to authorize virtual sittings of the finance committee so it can conduct four-week studies of the economic impacts of COVID-19 on various sectors, including tourism, culture and heritage, municipalities, construction and building, infrastructure, and small and medium businesses.
'It is expected to wrap up the overall study by Oct. 8.
Some stores reopen for curbside pickup
Meanwhile, stores in Ontario are allowed to reopen Monday for curbside pickup after a weekend that saw the spread of COVID-19 slow to a pace not seen since March.
The measure announced last week is meant to help ramp the economy back up after the pandemic caused unprecedented job losses in March and April.
All retail stores with a street entrance will be allowed to open today to provide both curbside pickup and delivery — a move Ford has said will allow thousands of people to return to work.
On Friday, the government allowed garden centres and nurseries to fully reopen, and hardware stores could do the same on Saturday.
Several Toronto-area malls said some of their stores with street entrances were offering curbside pickup Monday, or would be in the coming days.
Yorkdale Shopping Centre in north Toronto said close to a dozen stores — including food services and department stores — were taking advantage of the newly loosened rules, while the downtown Eaton Centre said four were doing so.
Square One Shopping Centre in nearby Mississauga, Ont., said a department store and sporting goods store were offering curbside pickup Monday, with others making preparations.
Ford also announced over the weekend that provincial parks will reopen Monday, though beaches, camping areas and playgrounds will remain closed and physical distancing must be maintained.
Deficit projected to quadruple
According to data released Friday by Statistics Canada, 689,200 Ontarians lost their jobs in April, in addition to the 403,000 the agency says were lost in March.
In its spring fiscal outlook published today, Ontario's Financial Accountability Office estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to curb it will cause the province's real GDP to drop by nine per cent this year, "the largest annual decline on record.
"Assuming the pandemic measures are lifted gradually and progressively through the second half of 2020, the province's real GDP is forecast to largely rebound in 2021, rising by 8.5 per cent," it added.
The FAO also projected that the province's deficit will quadruple to a record $41.0 billion this fiscal year. Though as the economy recovers, the deficit is expected to decrease to $25.3 billion the following year — still more than double last year's figure.
News on remaining school year expected next week
During his Monday news conference, Ford also indicated that his government is nearing a decision about the remainder of the school year.
"We're going to make it clear next week," Ford said, adding that fine details are still being worked out.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce also announced on Monday his support for a plan to postpone ceremonies such as proms and graduations until it becomes safe to hold them again. He listed summer and fall as viable possibilities.
"I spoke directly to many graduating students and their parents. Their stories have moved me to act," Lecce said in a statement.
"I firmly believe Ontario students deserve this positive conclusion to their academic journey, even if ceremonies are delayed."
However, decisions around postponements ultimately lie with individual school boards and local public health authorities.
With files from The Canadian Press