Province makes changes to long-term care visits as Ontario reports 554 new COVID-19 cases
Majority of cases were found in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York Region
Provincial officials say they are making changes to visitor policies at long-term care facilities in some areas of the province, as Ontario reported 554 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Toronto led the way in terms of cases with 251, followed by 106 in Ottawa, 79 in Peel and 43 in York Region.
Ottawa's number is the highest daily count the city has seen since the start of the pandemic.
At his daily news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said that changes are coming to long-term care visiting rules in areas with high community spread of COVID-19. Officials indicated Ottawa, Peel and Toronto would fall under that umbrella, but did not clearly state any other regions.
"We can't let COVID-19 get into these homes," Ford said.
As of Oct. 5, Ford said, visitors to long-term care homes in these areas will be restricted to staff, essential visitors and essential caregivers only.
Up to two individuals can be essential caregivers, the province says.
Ford also said the province is investing $540 million into the long-term care sector, which will go toward helping facilities with containment measures, staffing supports, renovations for infection control, and getting personal protective equipment (PPE).
The province is ensuring that every long-term care home in the province has a two-month supply of PPE, Ford said.
Ontario is currently reporting outbreaks in 46 long-term care homes. There were 78 confirmed active cases reported in residents on Tuesday, which marks an increase of 14.71 per cent.
WATCH: Ford explains new restrictions at some long-term care homes:
Provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath slammed the province's plan.
"Doug Ford has left seniors living in long-term care vulnerable as his government scrambles to catch up to the second wave of COVID-19," Horwath said in a statement.
"For families fortunate to have come out the other side of the first wave with their parents and grandparents, it's distressing to think that their loved ones might be even less protected than the first time around — with fewer staff than ever before, and cases numbers and outbreaks on the rise again in long-term care homes.
"Today's announcement does very little to recruit or retain staff for long-term care, and falls far, far short of investing in the many extra pairs of hands every long-term care home needs right now."
Provincial data shows 38,375 COVID-19 tests were completed on Monday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that 62 per cent of the new cases were found in people under the age of 40.
The province is reporting four new deaths, for a total of 2,844. A CBC count from public health units across the province, which contains more up to date figures, puts the real number at 2,880.
Hospitalizations rose by nine to 137, with 30 people now in ICU. Sixteen people are on a ventilator, the province says.
The province also marked 323 cases as resolved on Tuesday.
Ford has promised to take additional action to address a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Ontario reported an additional 700 cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the most on a single day since the outbreak began in late January.
Ford says the province is experiencing a second wave of the virus and has said nothing is off the table to address this increase.
Doctor is 'shocked and disappointed'
But not everyone feels the province is handling this new surge in cases correctly.
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, posted a video on Twitter shortly after the premier's news conference.
"I am shocked and disappointed. I didn't hear anything about interventions that would be designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 further spreading out of control in our province," Warner said.
"Today you can still go to a banquet hall and attend a wedding with 50 people. You can go to a casino. Activities that are clearly associated with the spread of COVID-19 are still being allowed."
My response to today’s press conference. It’s time for the membership of the Provincial Command Table to be revealed and for those who disagree with the decisions being made, to stand up. <a href="https://t.co/WpZL6Qx0vQ">pic.twitter.com/WpZL6Qx0vQ</a>—@drmwarner
Warner said he has no idea who is advising Ford at this point.
"Most of the experts are on the sidelines, screaming into the Twitter echo chamber, and we are all going to suffer because of this," he said.
Meanwhile, Toronto's top doctor is warning that it's time for people in the city to stop allowing social bubbles, and to now limit interactions with anyone outside their immediate household or essential supports.
When asked Tuesday if the idea of social bubbles in Toronto was now shot, Dr. David Williams, the province's medical officer of health, did not provide a straight answer.
Williams said the idea "is still one we value," but added that questions remain over if people are maintaining them.
"We've seen a casualness and a movement away from that … it's become very much less disciplined," Williams said.
When asked how people should be preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks, Williams again did not clearly answer the question.
He said the province "may be asking" people to limit the number of people at a gathering, while also mentioning guidelines to ensure people cook their turkeys properly.
Ontario is also reporting 64 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 37 among students.
Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 250 out of Ontario's 4,828 publicly-funded schools.
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With files from The Canadian Press