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Premier Ford facing pressure to open Ontario’s economy

Even his nephew is lobbying him about going to summer camp, he says


April 21, 2020
By Allison Jones/The Canadian Press

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford addresses the province. Photo: Screen Grab/Premier's Office

Premier Doug Ford tried to pump the brakes Tuesday on enthusiasm for reopening the economy, a day after encouraging new modelling was released, urging patience to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19.

Ford said his government’s framework for how and when to reduce and remove various restrictions should be released in the next few days.

He would not give specifics, except to say that one of the first areas may be outdoor activities.

“I’m getting lobbied hard by so many groups and organizations, but it’s easy to say, ‘Open, open, open,’ until we get a second wave of this and it bites us in the backside,” Ford said.

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“I just ask people to be patient.”

Ford said people are so anxious to get back to normal activities that he even got a call from his 12-year-old nephew — the son of the late former Toronto mayor Rob Ford — asking if he will be able to go to camp this summer.

“I said, ‘I can’t answer that,”’ Ford recounted. “He goes, ‘Well, find out and get back to me right away.’ I thought, really? I’m being lobbied by my 12-year-old nephew, too?”

Numbers suggest Ontario is peaking

Ford’s comments come a day after new provincial modelling suggested the community spread in Ontario is peaking — though cases in long-term care homes are rising.

Ontario reported 551 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, and 38 new deaths. Ford said that hearing about each death is heartbreaking, and warned that easing restrictions now would lead to even more deaths.

The new provincial total of 11,735 cases is a 4.9 per cent increase over Monday’s total, which is the lowest growth rate in weeks.

Long-term care homes hit hard

At least 367 long-term care residents have died amid outbreaks at 127 facilities.

A number of homes have been particularly hard hit, including Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto with 34 deaths and 138 infected, Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon with 29 deaths, Anson Place in Hagersville with 23 deaths, and Altamont Care Community in Toronto with 24 deaths. A personal support worker who worked at that facility also died.

Her union, SEIU Healthcare, said Tuesday it has filed applications with the Ontario Labour Relations Board alleging that Altamont, Anson Place and Eatonville failed to provide proper protective equipment, information and instruction to protect workers and residents. The parent companies of those homes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The provincial total includes 622 deaths and 5,806 resolved cases — which is nearly half.

Hospitalizations are up, however, from 802 to 859, and the numbers of people in intensive care and on ventilators also rose, albeit slightly.

More spending

Ford also highlighted investments Tuesday that his government is making under programs announced in the spring mini budget. Ontario is providing $40 million to help developmental services, child welfare organizations, victims shelters, and groups delivering social services to First Nations buy personal protective equipment and enhance staffing.

The province is also using $11 million to expand Meals on Wheels services and develop the capacity of community organizations to help deliver medication and other essentials to low-income seniors, and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions.