The Ontario government is extending its COVID-19 emergency orders until April 23 — and adding some new ones — as the provincial case count rises by 411 people to 6,648.
There have been 691 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19. Of this number, 257 are in intensive care units, while 215 are on ventilators.
The government also reported on Saturday that 253 people have died of the virus in Ontario. A total of 2,858 people in the province have recovered, the province said.
According to CBC tallies, Ontario has seen 283 deaths.
At a news conference on Saturday afternoon, Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said there have been 79 outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities and 109 deaths related to those outbreaks.
Since the end of January, 744 health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ontario.
But Williams said there is some good news: the province continues to see cases being resolved, which means people are recovering. "We're now at 2,858, representing 43 per cent of our cases."
Province adds new emergency measures
In addition to existing measures, Ontario announced new emergency orders on Saturday, including:
- Forbidding camping on Crown land.
- "[Making] it easier" to re-purpose buildings and put up makeshift structures, such as tents, to reduce healthcare pressures and help shelters find more sleeping space.
- Letting hospitals use retirement home beds to increase their capacity, "without certain labour relations implications."
- Emergency action to "improve cash flow" in the construction industry.
All previous COVID-19 emergency orders will remain in place, including closing non-essential workplaces and restricting group gatherings. These actions are based on advice from Ontario's chief medical officer of health, the province said.
Got masks or gloves? Drop them off today
Two Canadian celebrities are urging people to drop off their masks, gloves and other supplies Saturday at a personal protective equipment (PPE) drive in Toronto's east end.
Canadian hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser and actor Ryan Reynolds are collaborating on the "Conquer COVID-19" drive, which is set to run weekly.
You can drop off gloves, masks, face shields, two-way baby monitors, iPads or tablets, and other medical equipment until 5 p.m. at 459 Eastern Ave., a spokesperson said.
Health-care workers have been sounding alarms over fast-depleting stocks of PPE, a lack of which puts workers and patients at risk.
The donated supplies will go to clinics, hospitals, family physicians, nursing homes, elderly care facilities and other community health groups, a spokesperson said.
Companies step up to appeal for help
Premier Doug Ford says thousands of businesses have offered to retool to help fight the virus after the province appealed for essential supplies and equipment. The government says it has received more than 14,000 submissions to a new web portal.
"Thousands of businesses put up their hand to make critical medical supplies and equipment," Ford said. "Ontario businesses have stepped up."
The response has led to 7,500 emergency supply submissions and $90 million in medical equipment purchases, Ford said.
But more help is needed, he added.
"We need to enlist even more of our entrepreneurial leaders in order to stop this virus in its tracks," Ford said in a news release on Saturday.
Ford said they have also seen people trying to scam the province. He said the province is doing "due diligence," he called the scammers "disgusting" and threatened to ensure people who are caught are put in jail.
When asked about extending school closures, Ford said they are expecting a spike in cases in the next two weeks and that it's "premature" to make a decision.
"That will be a decision we'll be making after we speak to our chief medical officer. At the end of the day, he's going to have the call on this," Ford said.
The premier was also asked if grocery store workers would be eligible for child care. Ford said Education Minister Stephen Lecce is adjusting the list of essential workers who are eligible for child care in the coming days.
Issue more physical distancing tickets, Tory urges
Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory is calling for stricter enforcement and more tickets for people who flout physical distancing rules.
"We have reports of everything from bonfires on the beach to hanging out in groups in parking lots to playing pickup sports in closed areas," Tory said in an open letter to Toronto's police chief and the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards.
Police can issue $1,000 tickets if people who don't live together are closer than two metres apart.
The fines could go even higher — up to $5,000 upon conviction in court.
Toronto public health reported another 23 people died of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the city's total number of deaths linked to the virus to 77.
While most residents are staying two metres apart, Tory said, "we are still having informational chats with hundreds of people who don't get it or won't comply."
"The time has come for stricter enforcement and more tickets."