Ford urges people to download COVID-19 app as Ontario reports uptick in new cases

Ontario Premier Doug Ford urged people in province to download the new COVID-19 exposure app as more of Ontario implements Stage 3 reopenings today.

134 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in today's Ministry of Health update

Stage 3 allows for indoor dining at restaurants, but the province has ordered new measures intended to limit the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus in restaurants and bars. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford urged Ontarians to download the new COVID-19 exposure app as more of the province implements Stage 3 reopenings today.

"Please everyone, download the app," said Ford at his daily news conference. "This will be a huge help as more regions in Ontario enter Stage 3 today."

The app is designed to tell users whether they have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the previous two weeks. It is now available to be downloaded by residents of Ontario. 

Peter Bethlenfalvy, president of the treasury board, also spoke at today's press conference and said the more people download the app, "the more effective it will be." 

Residents can download the app to their mobile phones, which will use Bluetooth technology to exchange signals with other nearby phones. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, their public health authority will give that person a one-time key to enter in the app. It will then send notices to every phone that also has the app that has been within two metres of the infected person for at least 15 minutes.

Those who receive a notification will also receive instructions on what to do next. While government officials say the goal is to make the COVID Alert contact notification app available across the country and are in talks with other provinces, they could not say when it will be available outside Ontario.

Uptick in cases

Toronto and Peel Region are the latest regions to join the rest of Ontario in Stage 3 of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan today. Meanwhile, the province confirmed an additional 134 cases of the illness this morning after two straight days of fewer than 100. 

The new cases are concentrated in Ottawa, Windsor-Essex, Peel and Toronto. Meanwhile, Southwestern Public Health, which serves the counties of Oxford and Elgin and the City of St. Thomas, reported 19 additional cases.

Ontario has now confirmed a total of 39,209 infections of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 89.5 per cent are resolved. Another 168 cases were marked resolved in today's update.

Despite the relative increase in new daily cases, the number of active cases, 1,360, is at its lowest since infections peaked in the province.

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus is also at its lowest, 78, since the Ministry of Health began reporting hospitalization data.

The province's official COVID-19 death toll grew by three in today's report, and now sits at 2,775. A CBC News count based on data from public health units puts the real toll at 2,806.

Ford stressed the importance of following public health advice ahead of the upcoming long weekend, and pointed to rising case counts in the U.S. after the July 4 long weekend as a cautionary tale.

"We don't have to go down that road," he said. "And it's up to us to write the next chapter."

New Stage 3 orders for bars, restaurants

Meanwhile, residents of Toronto and Peel Region can now eat inside a restaurant and catch a movie in a theatre starting today, though they still have to follow physical distancing rules and other health measures.

Stage 3 allows most businesses and public spaces to reopen.

Toronto city council has enacted a series of additional health measures beyond those set by the province in preparation for today's change, including capacity and table size limits for indoor dining in restaurants.

The Ministry of Health also announced amended Stage 3 orders for bars and restaurants across Ontario this morning. 

The orders include the following measures:

  • All patrons will be required to be seated at all times, in both indoor and outdoor areas, with limited exceptions.
  • Bars and restaurants (and also tour boat operators) will be required to keep client logs for 30 days and to disclose the client logs to the medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request.

"These additional measures will help reduce close contact between individuals in these settings, and support case and contact tracing, thereby limiting the spread of COVID-19," said Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Windsor-Essex is now the only area still in Stage 2, with health officials saying they want more data before further loosening restrictions.

The region has been grappling with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks on farms and said earlier this week that numbers have been on the rise in the city of Windsor.

Ontario's school return plan

This week, the province unveiled its plan for a return to school in the fall. Elementary students are set to head back on a full-time basis, while most high school students will split their time between the classroom and online learning. 

The province says new safety measures will been implemented including mandatory mask wearing for teachers, staff, and students in Grades 4 and up, as well as an emphasis on hand hygiene, and keeping students in one cohort. 

Some parents have raised concerns over things like elementary school class sizes, as they aren't reduced in the province's plan.

Ontario has chosen this route because transmission and infection potential is lower in the elementary age group, said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province's associate chief medical officer of health.

"In the younger grades ... the children under 10 years of age, first of all, don't tend to get infected as much and they don't tend to spread it to other people," she said at Friday's news conference.

When asked what the protocol would be if someone in a classroom tests positive, Yaffe said the cohort would all be tested. Those who were in close contact with the positive case would be asked to stay home, which could be "possibly the whole class," she said.

She said she doesn't anticipate an entire school having to close down.

"It would be extremely rare that a whole school would need to be closed ... almost never will this be required," she said.

With files from Lucas Powers, Elizabeth Thompson, Ania Bessonov and The Canadian Press