Ontario health officials provide update on COVID-19 as provincial tally jumps to 993

Ontario health officials are providing an update on COVID-19 after the province confirmed 135 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including three deaths linked to the illness.

The new cases bring the provincial tally to 993, with 18 deaths total and eight cases considered resolved.

Another 10,074 people are awaiting test results, 891 fewer tests than were pending as of yesterday evening.

Some 41,032 people have been approved for testing province-wide.

The province briefly uploaded details about many of the new cases online, but quickly replaced it with a message saying that “information for all cases today is pending.”

Ontarians received emergency alerts on their cellphones, radios and TVs at 2 p.m. Friday, warning recent travellers to stay at home.

“TRAVELLERS RETURNING TO ONTARIO You are at high risk of spreading COVID-19,” the alert will read. “You are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days. DO NOT visit stores, family or friends. Everyone should stay home to stop the spread,” the alert read.

Premier Doug Ford said the alert is meant to keep public informed, especially those who are returning to Canada and may not have had access to the news coming out of the country or province.

“When people are away they may not be able to hear the news. When they come home, we’re telling them it’s not business as usual. Please stay at home,” Ford said at a news conference on Friday.

The federal government recently passed an order requiring people arriving in Canada by land, air or sea, to self-isolate for 14 days, with penalties of up to $1 million or three years in prison.

Oshawa grocery store employee dies

Keith Saunders, the employee at an Oshawa Real Canadian Superstore who tested positive for COVID-19, has died.

The 48-year-old Bowmanville man is Durham region’s third death connected to COVID-19, and the 39th in Canada. He died in hospital Wednesday.

Saunders was in his late 40s and had not travelled outside the country.

His wife, Katy Saunders, called Saunders her “soul mate and angel.”

In a Facebook post, she wrote that she’s doing her “best to try and navigate this nightmare.”

The Gibb Street store’s Facebook page reads Saunders was last in the store on March 16. Durham Public Health says the risk to customers is very low.

LCBO installing barriers at check-out, union says

Meanwhile, the union that represents LCBO workers says the provincial alcohol retailer has agreed to install Plexiglass barriers at check-out counters to better protect staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) said in a statement that the LCBO will also committed to limiting the number of customers in any location at a given time and provide security guards to enforce the cap.

“If the LCBO is going to stay open, it must put in place any and all measures necessary to keep workers and the public safe,” said OPSEU President Smokey Thomas.

“We respect the decision to stay open to help a vulnerable population, however we want to ensure all the necessary precautions are implemented to protect our workers and the public.”

The LCBO was deemed an essential business by the provincial government earlier this week and will keep its doors open as many other retailers in Ontario shut down for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Here’s what else is happening on Friday:

  • Updated numbers are expected from the province at 10:30 a.m. ET and again at 5:30 p.m.
  • The chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Command Table — who is also the deputy health minister — will be providing an update today at 2 p.m. ET on the hospital situation in the province.

At that news conference, Helen Angus will be joined by the presidents of Ontario Health and the University Health Network to discuss how the province will address capacity issues in intensive care units.

Reporters will also likely have questions about the supply of personal protective equipment, after CBC News revealed Thursday that nurses and other frontline staff are already being told to ration the use of masks at major Toronto hospitals.

Keith Saunders, who tested positive for COVID-19, has now died. He was an employee at an Oshawa Real Canadian Superstore. (Katy Saunders/Facebook)

2 more GTA grocery store employees test positive

The Longo’s grocery chain reported that one of its store employees, as well as a driver from its Grocery Gateway delivery division, have tested positive for COVID-19.

The store employee worked at the company’s Weston Road location in Woodbridge. The location has been closed until next Thursday as it undergoes a “deep clean.”

Further, the company said it has sent an email to all customers who may have had contact with the Grocery Gateway driver in the last 14 days.

“Health authorities continue to advise us that the risk of grocery delivery remains low,” Longo’s said in a statement.

At the news conference on Friday Premier Ford called grocery store employees “unsung heroes.”

“We need to thank the person at the cash register and the person stocking the shelves. I just want to thank them, thank them for their service,” he said.

NDP leader calls on Ford government to help tenants

NDP leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the Ontario government to help tenants who can’t pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horwath says in a statement that her party wants Premier Doug Ford to provide direct financial support to households so they can make rent and make it illegal to evict a tenant during the public health crisis.

There is currently an effective ban on evictions in Ontario as the Landlord and Tenant Board has suspended all hearings  for the duration of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As rent comes due on April 1, landlord and tenant associations across Canada have been calling for some kind of relief package from provincial, territorial and federal governments.

An unprecedented number of people have been laid off across the country as governments have forced non-essential businesses to close over the past week.

In a news conference Thursday, Ford urged anyone who can pay rent to do so, while promising those who can’t that they will not be evicted.

Toronto health-care worker makes tough choice

Marci Halls, a cardiac technologist at a Toronto hospital, spoke to CBC News Friday morning about her decision to send her young son to live with this grandparents in London, Ont., during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Being a single mom and coming to work, it gets really hard to keep your child safe,” she told News Network. “We run the risk, every time we leave for work, of bringing the virus back home.”

Halls documented her last day at home with her son in a series of Instagram posts.

“It was easily the hardest day of my life,” she said. “It’s just him and I so much. Not knowing when I’ll get to physically touch him again was just devastating.”

Halls said she hopes that her videos and posts will help the public understand the sacrifices that health-care workers are making, and encourage people to stay at home and take the outbreak seriously.

“There are so, so many major sacrifices being made every day by so many people on so many levels.”

Restaurant industry calls for help

Canadian restaurant owners and food service workers have started a campaign called #OneTable in an effort to secure federal support.

The group is calling for immediate financial relief, protection from being locked out of their locations by landlords and help to reopen and rehire employees once anti-coronavirus measures are eased.

It has also posted guides for restaurant and franchise owners, as well as others in the industry, who may have questions about how to handle the unprecedented circumstances.

More long-term care home deaths

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says two members of a long-term care home have died after developing symptoms following a COVID-19 outbreak.

One resident died Tuesday and another on Wednesday at the Pinecrest Nursing Home.

The two who died were not tested for COVID-19.

The deaths came after three residents tested positive on March 20.

Fourteen staff members were confirmed to have tested positive as of Thursday, while four have had negative results and 16 are still waiting.

Thirty-three other people at the home have developed symptoms.

Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, the medical officer of health for the unit, calls it the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the province.

“This outbreak of COVID-19 is currently the largest outbreak in the province and really brings home how devastating and deadly this virus can be for older people in our communities,” Noseworthy said in a statement.

Various procedures to try to stop the spread were implemented once the outbreak was confirmed, “but given the incubation period of the virus, many staff and residents were probably already infected,” Noseworthy said.


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