Ontario's COVID-19 death toll climbs to 698, with 250 people in ICU
Province says there are now 11,735 confirmed cases of the virus
There are now 698 deaths linked to COVID-19 infection in Ontario, according to the latest data collected by CBC News.
The provincial government is reporting 622 deaths, though those numbers lag behind those provided by local health units.
At a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said the first thing he does in the morning each day is ask for the updated death toll.
"It hits you hard in the heart, believe me," he said.
The province announced Tuesday that 859 people have now been hospitalized with COVID-19, which is up from 802 on Monday. The number of patients in ICU has risen slightly to 250 from 247, while one more person is now on a ventilator, with 194 of those cases total.
COVID-19 cases in Ontario have reached 11,735, as the province announced 551 new cases Tuesday morning. The province also says 5,806 people have recovered.
Those numbers provide a snapshot of the situation in Ontario as of April 20.
The province says it has now completed 174,170 tests for the virus, with 9,330 of those happening on Monday. According to the latest figures, 5,546 tests are currently under evaluation.
Previous modelling from the province showed that by the start of this week, under the "best case scenario," more than 1,200 people confirmed to have COVID-19 would be in intensive care units.
But new modelling projections released Monday suggest there are fewer hospitalizations and patients in intensive care than predicted.
The province is now working on what Premier Doug Ford calls "a framework for a gradual, measured and safe reopening of our province based on the data we are seeing today."
Mike Crawley, who covers Queen's Park for CBC News, has more on what that could look like here.
The province's Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams told reporters Tuesday that Ontario's numbers seem to be on a bit of a "plateau," and now officials want to see them drop.
"We'd like to see those community-based numbers coming down extensively," he said, later adding that the province would want to see daily case numbers in the 200 range, "if not lower," for physical distancing measures to begin to ease.
"When we're dealing with daily numbers of over 500, we're not there yet."
At Tuesday's news conference, Ford said he is very confident that with the support of the province's industries, "we're going to have the economy moving forward and going on all cylinders," but added it "won't happen overnight." He cautioned that all Ontarians will need to be cautious, even if people are anxious to get back to work.
"We're going to have this province booming once again," Ford said.
Support for seniors
Ford said the province is partnering with the Ontario Community Support Association and providing $11 million for meals on wheels and other support programs to get food and medications to seniors and people with disabilities during the pandemic.
The premier also said payments from the province's Guaranteed Annual Income System are being delivered this week, and Ontario is doubling payments for 194,000 low-income seniors across the province.
"This will provide much-needed financial support for the seniors who need it most," he said.
While new projections suggest the rate of infection across the province is in line with Ontario's best-case scenario, the picture in long-term care facilities is much worse than hoped.
According to the figures the province released Tuesday, 121 outbreaks have been reported in long-term care homes, which marks an increase of seven from Monday's report.
Some homes are dealing with large-scale outbreaks, like Seven Oaks in Scarborough, where 108 of the home's 249 residents have tested positive and 29 have died. Twenty-four staff members have also tested positive.
Forest Heights Revera in Kitchener also has 103 positive resident cases, 41 staff cases, and 12 deaths.
In Pickering, Orchard Villa Retirement residence is now reporting 31 deaths among its long-term care residents, with 98 resident cases and 24 staff cases of the virus.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our residents and we extend our sincere condolences to their family and friends," said acting executive director April Beckett in a statement.
Ford told reporters Tuesday that changes do need to be made within the province's long-term care system.
"I'm the person who's going to be held accountable no matter which way this goes," he said.
Williams said the way the virus is spreading in long-term care homes compared to the way it's spreading in the community seems like two separate events.
Though community spread is showing signs of peaking, that hasn't yet happened in long-term care, he said.
Courts on hold for 3 more months
Criminal and civil jury trials in Ontario will be on hold at least an additional three months in light of the ongoing pandemic.
The Ontario Superior Court temporarily halted in-person operations in mid-March due to rising concerns over the novel coronavirus, with all criminal and civil matters suspended or adjourned until June.
In a notice issued this week, Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz now says the court will not resume jury selection and jury trials until September at the earliest.
Morawetz says the court will monitor the situation and give further direction next month.
With files from the Canadian Press