Toronto

No need for Ontario to slow down reopening after nail salon outbreak, Ford government says

Ontario reported 111 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday — the fewest new cases on a single day since March 25 —while testing reached a record high, the Ministry of Health says.

Ontario reports fewest new COVID-19 cases since March 25, while testing hits record high

Nearly all of the province has now moved into Stage 2 of the government's reopening plan. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the handling of an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Kingston nail salon this week shows "the system is working."

The salon, which reopened June 12, declared an outbreak of the novel coronavirus on Thursday. Since then, 18 new cases of the virus have been linked to the salon, with as many as 700 people potentially exposed.

At his daily news briefing on Friday, Ford told reporters the province was able to follow up with those people, saying the case shows that the province's contact tracing efforts are working as they should.

Asked if the outbreak signals a need to slow down reopening, Health Minister Christine Elliott said, "It doesn't mean that we have to move back on anything."

Ford was also asked again why the province is not making face masks mandatory in indoor spaces. The premier said he didn't disagree with the approach taken by Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, who has moved a motion for mandatory masks across York Region.

"We just can't enforce it. That's the problem here," Ford said, adding he encourages everyone to wear a mask in public. 

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Binh's Nails and Spa in the west of the eastern Ontario city on Thursday and closed it until further notice. (Google Street View)

Kingston's mayor also moved to make masks mandatory in all indoor public settings, effective immediately. That includes buses, grocery stores, salons, places of worship and other spaces. 

No word on when province might move to Stage 3

As for when the province might move to Stage 3 of economic recovery, Ford declined to speculate. He also didn't say if reopening measures would be applied regionally as they were for Stage 2.

But he touted the success of the approach taken so far when compared to those in place across the United States, which has seen multiple states reporting thousands of new COVID-19 case per day. 

"That's the comparison," he said.

"Everyone being cautious and everyone following the protocol, which they have ... versus a reckless approach, in my opinion, south of the border. Everyone just goes hog wild and ... that's come back to bite them."

The comments come as Ontario reported 111 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday — the fewest new cases on a single day since March 25 —while testing reached a record high, the Ministry of Health says.

Lowest daily growth rate since peak

The 0.3 per cent increase in cases is the lowest daily growth rate since the province's outbreak peaked, and means Ontario has now seen a total of 34,316 infections of the novel coronavirus since late January. 

Of those, nearly 87 per cent are resolved. Another 226 cases were marked resolved since the province's last update. 

There are now fewer than 2,000 active cases provincewide for the first time since the early weeks of the outbreak. 

Twenty-eight of Ontario's 34 public health units reported five or fewer new cases, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a series of tweets this morning. Of those 28, 19 reported no new cases at all. 

Windsor-Essex, which has struggled to contain outbreaks among migrant farm workers in the Leamington and Kingsville areas, confirmed six new cases. Toronto and Peel Region combined for a total of 59, while another 13 were reported in York. 

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases, a measure that smoothes peaks and valleys in data, has been on the decline in the last week. 

Further, Ontario's network of about 30 community, commercial and hospital labs processed 30,780 COVID-19 test samples yesterday, the most ever in a 24-hour period. 

Meanwhile, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 dropped again, and remains at the lowest level since the province began reporting that data in early April.

The number of those being treated in intensive care units and with ventilators also both declined.

"While very welcome news, we shouldn't draw too many conclusions from one day of data. Rather, we'll continue to keep a close eye on what is hopefully the continuation of our downward trend," Elliott said.

Ontario's official COVID-19 death toll grew by three, up to 2644. However, a CBC News count based on data provided directly by public health units, which avoids lag time in reporting, puts the real toll at 2,692.

About three quarters of all deaths were residents of long-term care homes. Public health officials are currently tracking outbreaks in 57 of the province's 630 long-term care facilities. 

The Canadian Armed Forces said today that 30 of its members would stay at Woodbridge Vista Care Community, where at least 23 residents have died during the outbreak. The facility was one of seven in Ontario to which military personnel were deployed earlier this year to help staff and residents. 

The CAF said in an email today that the mission is slated to end on July 3. 

With files from Lucas Powers and Mike Crawley

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