Ontario reports 111 new COVID-19 cases, as much of province set to move to Stage 3

There are currently fewer than 1,450 active cases of COVID-19 provincewide in Ontario.

28 of 34 public health units reported 5 or fewer new cases today

Most of the province will move into Stage 3 of reopening on Friday. (Andrew Lee/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Ontario reported 111 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, while the number of active cases in the province continues to fall.

As much of the province prepares for Stage 3 of reopening, Premier Doug Ford says his government has a plan to deal with a second wave, but offered no details about how or when it will be announced.

The newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus bring the total number in Ontario since late January to 36,950. Of those, 88.7 per cent are considered resolved by the Ministry of Health. 

Another 122 instances were marked resolved in today's update, meaning there are currently fewer than 1,450 active cases provincewide. 

Twenty-eight of Ontario's 34 public health units reported five or fewer additional cases today. Of the 28, 21 confirmed no new infections at all.

The province's network of labs completed some 16,744 tests for the novel coronavirus over the previous 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as those being treated in intensive care units and with ventilators, all increased slightly.

The province's official COVID-19 death toll grew by one, and now sits at 2,723. A CBC News count based on data from public health units puts the real toll at 2,761.

The news comes after the provincial government revealed yesterday that all but 10 public health units across Ontario will move into Stage 3 of reopening on Friday. Those that were not given the green light are concentrated in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, as well as in Windsor-Essex.

Ford says he wants kids in class 5 days a week

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ford said the premiers are getting "very close" to a COVID-19 relief deal with the federal government, with hopes of an agreement by the end of the week.

The premier was also asked about broadcaster NBC bringing in American workers to produce NHL broadcasts, while freelancers in Toronto are "frozen out."

Ford said he doesn't agree with the contract, however, the "horse has left the barn" and there's nothing he can do.

When asked about criticism suggesting his government is more focused on reopening bars than schools, Ford noted he himself doesn't drink alcohol and instead emphasized his concern for keeping businesses such as bars and restaurants afloat. Bars, he said, are "the last thing" he's worried about.

Ford also said he wants kids "in school five days a week," with schools cleaned at night rather than during the day. He said he's told school boards the government preference is for full-time in-class schooling.

School boards have been directed to prepare three different plans for September: full-time in-class schooling, remote learning, or a blend of both. Parents have said they are worried about how to handle child care come September, with some saying they may need to leave the workforce.

NDP release its own back-to-school plan

Meanwhile, the Ontario NDP put out its own plan to get kids back in school full-time, which would include hiring more teachers, funding to provide more supports to students, and school upgrades to help with infection control.

"Doug Ford and his education minister should be moving mountains to get kids safely back school five days a week in the fall," NDP education critic Marit Stiles said in a statement.

"Instead of taking action, they're taking a wait-and-see approach, wiping their hands of the enormous problems parents are facing."

Other elements of the NDP plan include job-protected leave and benefits for parents, funding for the child care sector, more school buses to allow for physical distancing, and using public infrastructure to help with school and daycare reopening.

'Essential' to prepare for second wave, OHA says

Ford said on Tuesday his government has a plan to deal a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, a pledge that comes as Ontario's hospitals warn the surge may come as flu season strikes.

Ford said he has been consulting with provincial health officials about the plan, but offered no details about how or when it will be announced.

"We have a plan that will be rolling out and we're prepared," he said. "We are 100 times better, more prepared now in health care and PPEs ... but we can never, ever, ever, let our guard down." Ford also contrasted Ontario's reopening approach to the United States, which he called "reckless."

But the CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said while the province's economic recovery is vital, so too will be preparing for a possible second wave of patients.

"By its very nature, moving to Stage 3 introduces heightened risk of renewed spread," Anthony Dale said in a statement.

"As a result, it is essential that Ontario's health-care system be ready for further outbreaks and a second wave of the pandemic. Nothing should be taken for granted."

Dale said the province must develop a contingency plan to ensure regional service and staffing plans are in place ahead of the surge.

Resources must also be provided to health-care services outside of hospitals, Dale said, with the OHA calling for a "widespread expansion" of home care, community services and virtual care.

"A potential second wave of COVID-19 will likely collide with flu season, adding significant pressure to a sector already experiencing unprecedented demands and conditions," he said.

'Second wave is coming,' NDP leader warns

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she is concerned the government has no plan to deal with a second wave this fall and urged the Ford to begin work now in the health and long-term care sectors.

"The second wave is coming, it's just a matter of when," she said. "And if it's exacerbated by the flu season, then we have some real worries."

Horwath also criticized Ford for launching what she called a "campaign-style" tour of the province, after Ford took questions at a mask-producing automotive company in Cambridge, Ont. on Tuesday.

The premier's office said the schedule will see him visit seven different regions and travel more than 5,000 kilometres over the next eight weeks.

The government should be focused on developing a plan to return children to school safely this fall instead of trying to bolster Ford's chances of re-election, Horwath said.

But Ford said the tour will be his opportunity to hear directly from people across Ontario about their needs as the province moves to Stage 3.

Hospital union opposes extension of emergency orders

Meanwhile, a union representing Ontario health-care workers says it's planning a series of escalating political and legal actions, including brief work interruptions, in response to the province potentially extending its emergency powers.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, a division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says it's pushing back against the province's emergency order because it suspends their collective bargaining agreement.

Union president Michael Hurley says his members are going to start by sending their MPPs emails this week, explaining how the order damages their workplace rights.

The union says it's also planning legal challenges and will hold rallies outside of its workplaces on Friday.

Members of the union will vote on Monday night to see if it will be necessary to have a brief work stoppage the next day.

Hurley says that while the emergency orders were acceptable in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's now a detriment to health-care workers and the emergency is over in most of the province.

A spokeswoman for the union confirmed on Monday that 98 per cent of its membership voted in favour of political action over the weekend.

Hurley says that his members are "angry" and will be holding a series of news conferences in Hamilton, Sudbury, Ottawa and Toronto this week to bring attention to the issues at the community level.

The Progressive Conservative government introduced a bill last week that would allow it to keep some emergency measures in place in the months ahead.

Hurley said the suspended agreement means hospital staff may have their shifts changed, be moved from site to site, or have vacation requests denied.


With files from Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press