Significantly Enhanced Measures will Help Contain Spread of COVID-19
The health and well-being of Ontarians is our government’s top priority. Since we first learned of COVID-19 as an emerging public health issue, Ontario has been diligently monitoring the developing situation to protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians.
Today, the Government of Ontario announced that it is taking decisive action by making an order declaring an emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. In doing so, Ontario is using every power possible to continue to protect the health and safety of all individuals and families.
As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:
- All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
- All public libraries;
- All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
- All licensed child care centres;
- All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
- All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
- Concert venues.
Further, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship. These orders were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in place until March 31, 2020, at which point they will be reassessed and considered for extension, unless this order is terminated earlier.
Ottawa’s first COVID-19 Community Assessment Centre is open. The new centre is located at the Brewer Arena: 151 Brewer Way. It will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
ABOUT COVID-19 & PREVENTION MEASURES:
Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre.
There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses. Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Sneeze and cough into your sleeve
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you are sick
If you feel unwell (cough, fever, breathing difficulties), contact your health care provider, public health unit or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
If you need emergency medical attention you should call 911 and mention your travel history and symptoms.
Visit Ontario’s website (ontario.ca/coronavirus) to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
ONTARIO’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Ontario is also investing $304 million to enhance the province’s response to COVID-19 by providing the following:
- $100 million for increased capacity in hospitals to assist with the effective treatment of COVID-19 patients both in critical care and medicine beds.
- $50 million for more testing and screening through public health, including additional funding to support extraordinary costs incurred to monitor, detect and contain COVID-19 in the province. This includes contact tracing, increased laboratory testing capacity and home testing.
- $50 million to further protect frontline workers, first responders and patients by increasing the supply of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies and equipment to protect them.
- $25 million to support frontline workers working in COVID-19 assessment centres, including the creation of a new fund to provide respite care, child care services and other supports as they are needed.
- $50 million for long-term care homes to support 24/7 screening, additional staffing to support infection control and one-time grants for homes for increased cost of supplies.
- $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth to support additional staffing, respite for caregivers impacted by school closures, personal protective equipment and supplies and transportation costs to minimize client exposure and to support social distancing, as well as additional cleaning costs.
- $5 million to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures.
- $4 million for Indigenous communities to support transportation costs for health care professionals and the distribution of critical supplies.
Dr. Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is strongly recommending the immediate suspension of all large events and public gatherings of over 50 people.
Organizers who have questions about smaller gatherings are encouraged to contact their local public health unit.
He has asked all Ontarians to recognize the risk of attending public gatherings and to practice social distancing as much as possible until further notice to manage the spread of illness.
Organizations that can take advantage of virtual options to continue providing services are strongly encouraged to do so.
We are working closely with Telehealth to ensure adequate support to handle increased call volumes and is committed to allocating additional resources as needed to ensure timely responses for Ontarians.
In the coming days, the province and Ontario Health will be deploying approximately 130 nurses to conduct symptom assessments and referrals among callers who request a callback.
Nurses will work from existing regional offices to provide immediate support and respond to callers seeking a callback to help mitigate current wait times.
Telehealth will also increase intake staff to reduce wait times for initial contact with a Telehealth representative.
To further increase intake and nursing capacity over the coming weeks, Ontario is connecting with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) to identify support for Telehealth from its 44,000 registered nurse members
The province has also begun to explore existing non-clinical resources within the Ontario Public Service and other broader public sector organizations to support Telehealth’s call volumes.
In order to be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to any scenario, Ontario is also exploring a partnership with organizations which have existing health care call centres to provide symptom assessment for COVID-19 to callers requesting a callback
SICK LEAVE/SICK NOTES:
Our government added three new types of leave to the Employment Standards Act: Sick Leave, Family Responsibility Leave and Bereavement Leave. Medical notes are not automatically required for these leaves of absence. Instead, employers now have the option to require reasonable proof of the circumstances that entitle the employee to leave.
We’re recommending that individuals who may feel ill stay at home, and we encourage employers to support that advice.
In response to the COVID19 outbreak in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has directed the Ontario government and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development to draft legislation that will protect Ontario workers and their families.
Legislation will be introduced to protect workers who are currently taking or may need to take unpaid leave during self-isolation or quarantine periods in the future, or for those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or daycare closures.
This proposed legislation would also ensure sick notes are not required.
We will work with the opposition parties to introduce and pass the legislation as expeditiously as possible. More details will be announced in the coming days.
TRAVEL INFORMATION & REPATRIATION:
Out of an abundance of caution we are asking all travellers who are not a healthcare worker or another essential service work to self-isolate for 14 days upon your return to Canada.
People who are self-isolating should not go to work.
Workers who have travelled and are part of workplaces that are essential to daily living are able to return to work as long as they are asymptomatic. However, they should self-monitor for a period of 14 days and identify themselves to their employer so that a plan can be put into place to ensure the protection of those workplaces.
Children under the age of 16 years who have traveled outside of Canada should also self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Parents should actively monitor their children’s symptoms. Children who are self-isolating should stay at home and avoid social gathering points such as community centres or parks.
If you feel unwell (cough, fever, breathing difficulties), contact your health care provider, public health unit or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
As the situation develops, further guidance will be made available.
At this time, Dr. Williams has asked that Ontarians review the need for travel and minimize any and all non-essential travel.
We are working closely with the federal government as they continue to work through the repatriation of Canadians from Grand Princess cruise ship.
Ontario is taking action to ensure readiness to contain and respond to a range of outbreak scenarios.
We are implementing an enhanced response that formally brings together a wide range of partners to review, strengthen and implement provincial and regional plans and ensure their responsiveness to COVID-19.
As we enter this next phase of preparedness, every Ontarian can have full confidence that these efforts will continue to keep them safe.
GROCERY BUYING HABITS & FOOD SECURITY:
Ontarians can be confident that our food supply is robust and that our distribution system will continue to operate and remain responsive to the needs of Ontarians.
Rest assured, we have plenty of food that will continue to reach grocery stores on a regular basis.
Our food supply chain is one of the strongest in the world and our government remains committed to ensuring Ontarians can access healthy and nutritious Ontario-produced foods.
Please practice normal grocery buying habits and rest assured that our grocery production and supply chain will continue to provide Ontarians with the food we enjoy each and every day.
The health and well-being of Ontarians is our government’s number one priority.
Given the latest developments both internationally and here at home, we are taking further action. Based on advice from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the experts at the COVID-19 Command Table, the Minister of Education has issued a Ministerial Order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March break, in response to the emergence in Ontario of COVID-19.
This means that Ontario schools have been ordered to remain closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020.
We recognize the significant impact this decision will have on families, students, schools, as well as the broader community, but this precaution is necessary to keep people safe. These steps build on a number of actions our government has taken in recent days to respond to COVID-19, including moving forward with additional public health measures, which include enhanced access to screening, expanding lab-testing capacity, and implementing new initiatives to keep the public and frontline workers safe.
POST SECONDARY FACILITIES:
Based on the advice of Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the experts at the province’s Command Table, Ontario is taking decisive steps to contain the virus and continue to protect the public.
We continue to work with our public health partners at all levels, alongside our postsecondary partners, to protect students and faculty at this critical juncture by providing regular updates on COVID-19 and campus safety.
In light of recent developments and based on strong guidance from Dr. David Williams, and the experts at the COVID-19 Command Table, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities will work with Ontario’s postsecondary institutions to ensure each campus has a COVID-19 response plan for academic continuity for students and faculty that does not put their health or personal well-being at risk, while ensuring students can continue to receive the world-class education our institutions provide.
PUBLIC HEALTH FUNDING:
Our government is providing stability to municipalities as they complete 2021 budget planning by committing to extending one-time mitigation funding for an additional calendar year for the province’s public health units.
This action ensures that historical municipal adjustments remain capped at 10 per cent and recognizes the considerable time and resources necessary for public health units to effectively respond to COVID-19.
Extending mitigation funding would keep municipal funding levels for public health units in calendar year 2021 at the same level as calendar year 2020.
This is in addition to the up to $100 million COVID-19 Contingency Fund announced yesterday.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT & UNION CONCERNS:
Our government wants to make sure health care providers have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies at the right time and in the right place to deal with increased demand. We have collected information from public health units, hospitals, emergency services, long-term care, home and community care and primary care teams to determine their specific needs.
We have reviewed the evidence-based guidance for PPE in order to address PPE supply and distribution, and system initiatives that will preserve our supply.
This update is consistent with the World Health Organization’s guidance for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in addressing COVID-19. It has been reviewed by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and leading infectious disease experts, who are supportive.
We have and will continue to engage with unions to ensure the continued health and safety of our health care workers and patients.
HOSPITAL CAPACITY & TESTING:
Our government has been working closely with our sector partners to monitor the levels of supplies in the system. It is important to note that the risk to Ontarians remains low. With that being said, it is important to note that those who are not exhibiting symptoms are not being tested.
Further to our request for hospitals to implement pandemic plans, our government has worked to reduce capacity pressures by:
Establishing dedicated assessment centres to ease pressures on hospital emergency departments and protect hospital patient populations.
Launched a new COVID-19 self-assessment tool at Ontario.ca/coronavirus to support Ontarians in determining if they need to seek care.
Approved new physician billing codes for telephone assessments, enabling doctors to do more over the phone so patients can stay at home.
We ask that at this time people continue to monitor themselves and if you feel unwell (cough, fever, breathing difficulties), contact your health care provider, public health unit or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
We continue to monitor the situation closely as we learn more about the impact COVID-19, geopolitical risks, and commodity price fluctuations will have on our economy. While it is still too early to know the full impacts, our government will ensure the necessary resources are available to respond as needed.
THE POSSIBILITY OF LEGISLATURE SUSPENDING:
Out of an abundance of caution relating to the spread of COVID-19, the Legislature has given the government the tools to suspend future meetings of the assembly, if deemed necessary for public health reasons.
The steps the Legislature has taken give the government authority to provide notice that a future meeting of the Assembly should be cancelled – but currently the government intends to reconvene the Legislature on March 23rd.
The special provision, passed unanimously by the Legislature, is time-limited and expires June 4th.
CLOSING THE LEGISLATIVE BUILDING TO THE PUBLIC:
The decision to close the Main Legislative Building for certain activities and functions is made by the Clerks and Speaker of the Assembly out of an abundance of caution. The government supports this temporary change and our first priority remains the health and safety of all Ontarians.
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Candice Coates, Executive Assistant
Office of Goldie Ghamari, MPP