Ontario reports 165 new COVID-19 cases as active cases continue to decline

Only Toronto and Peel and York regions reported more than five newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus, with 87, 23 and 22, respectively. 

87% of Ontario's 35,535 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 are resolved

Ontario has processed more than 20,000 test samples for the novel coronavirus for 10 straight days. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 165 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with 31 of the province's 34 public health units confirming five or fewer cases, the Ministry of Health says.

Only Toronto and Peel and York regions reported more than five newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus, with 87, 23 and 22, respectively. 

Fourteen health units reported no new cases at all, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted in a series of tweets. 

Ontario has now seen a total of 35,535 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, a full 87 per cent are resolved. Another 169 infections were marked resolved yesterday.

There are now some 1,944 active cases provincewide, using Ontario's official death toll of 2,682. A CBC News count puts the real COVID-19 death toll in the province at 2,729, meaning there are actually about 1,897 active cases currently.

Further, the province's network of about 30 community, commercial and hospital labs processed 24,194 test samples as of 4 p.m. Thursday, the Ministry of Health says. Another 15,911 are in the queue waiting to be completed. 

Hospitalizations continue to decline. There are now 155 patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Forty of those are being treated in intensive care, while 25 are on ventilators. 

Canadian soldiers were dispatched to five long-term care homes in Ontario during the height ouf the outbreak, including Orchard Villa in Pickering. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Despite the improving outlook, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government is not yet ready to announce when the province will move to the third and final phase of its reopening plan.

"We'll get there very shortly," he said during a Friday news conference, though Ford noted that large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events will likely not be allowed even in the next round of reopening.

CAF members leave long-term care homes

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces finished their mission at Ontario long-term care homes today, departing the last facility where a team was present.

Beginning in April, about 500 CAF members were deployed to a total of seven long-term care homes in the province where staff and residents were overwhelmed by cases of COVID-19. They left five of the seven facilities late last month, while teams stayed behind in two others. 

"In this time of exceptional need, we are grateful for the support we received from the Canadian Armed Forces teams in our long-term care homes," said Merrilee Fullerton, the minister of long-term care, in a news release issued today.

"Their experience and expertise in emergency situations have been crucial in fighting this virus and helping to protect our residents and staff in long-term care homes."

In May, CAF members published a scathing report outlining troubling conditions in five of the homes, leading the province to take over management in several. In the wake of the report, the government announced an independent commission into the state of the province's 626 long-term care facilities, set to begin this month. The report also led to ongoing probes by the Ontario Ombudsman's and Patient Ombudsman's offices. 

Residents of long-term care homes account for about three quarters of COVID-19-linked deaths in Ontario.  As of yesterday, there are active COVID-19 outbreaks in 44 homes, the government says. The Ministry of Health also reported a seventh death of a health-care worker associated with the long-term care system today. 

Work stoppage at Windsor-Essex farm

Meanwhile, a group representing greenhouse growers in Ontario's Windsor-Essex region says a work stoppage at a local farm due to a COVID-19 outbreak has escalated fears about testing for the virus.

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers says in a statement that the public health order has contributed to anxiety among both farmers and workers.

On Wednesday, the region's medical officer of health issued an order that required an unnamed farmer whose greenhouse has an active outbreak involving 191 workers to isolate those employees and stop work.

The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex issued the order after a rash of positive tests over the weekend.

The growers group says it is working with the sector and the provincial government to address those fears as on-farm testing continues.

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the work stoppage could discourage local farmers from participating in efforts to combat the virus.

The Windsor-Essex public health unit confirmed three more cases of COVID-19 this morning.

Province to offer infection control training

The Ford government also announced on Friday a $3 million investment in a new online training program for Ontario workers looking to join or return to the workplace.

The program will cover topics such as infection control in addition to more standard job safety lessons such as preventing slips and falls.

Up to 100,000 Ontarians will be eligible to take part in the program. It will be delivered in part through live video conferencing with instructors. 

"This is good for business confidence and it is good for consumer confidence," Ford said.

With files from CBC's Lucas Powers and The Canadian Press

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