Ontario reports 379 new COVID-19 cases as province waits on shipment of N95 masks

Ontario reported another 379 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 4,726.

The official tally includes 153 deaths, though CBC News has compiled data from local health units and counted at least 168 deaths throughout the province.

More than 500 health-care workers in the province have tested positive, representing about 11 per cent of all of the confirmed cases in Ontario.

Another 691 people are awaiting test results. The number of tests Ontario has completed daily has dropped steadily over the past week. After issuing more than 6,200 test results on April 1, the number of results announced today declined to 2,568.

It’s a worrying trend, according to doctors who argue that widespread testing is the only way to get an accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 and a crucial tool to make sure those who are infected don’t transmit the virus further.

The number of tests “is definitely not the curve we want to see flattening,” tweeted Dr Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa.

The province’s Ministry of Health had targeted conducting 5,000 tests per day by the end of March, increasing weekly to reach a goal peak of 19,000 tests per day by the third week of April. Ontario now has the lab capacity to run 13,000 tests per day but the province’s COVID-19 assessment centres are only submitting about 3,500 tests daily, said Hayley Chazan, director of media relations for Health Minister Christine Elliott in an email.

“This surplus in capacity means that we can now look at testing more people, particularly priority populations, including health care staff, residents and staff in long-term care and retirement homes and Indigenous communities,” wrote Chazan.

“We expect to have more to say about a new testing strategy that makes full use of this capacity shortly.”

Ontario has administered a total of 81,364 tests, more than any other province, Williams said.

Of the 614 total current cases that have required hospitalization:

  • 233 are in intensive care units.
  • 187 are on a ventilator.

A shipment of badly needed medical masks is expected today.

Premier Doug Ford said yesterday a shipment of about 500,000 masks had been held up at the Canada -U.S. border, but was expected in the province by the end of the day.

But Ford says the province is still facing a major shortage of key supplies and could be out of masks in less than two weeks, even with the new shipment.

He says domestic production is ramping up, but won’t be able to top up supplies for several weeks.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s first responders will be warned before they go to a site where they will come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the alerts will ensure the health of those working on the front lines.

The information disclosed will be limited to the person’s name, address, date of birth and whether the individual has had a positive test result.

Ford and Elliott will be joined by Finance Minister Rod Phillips at a news conference scheduled for 1 p.m. at Queen’s Park.

Layoffs at the ROM

The Royal Ontario Museum is temporarily laying off some employees, while others — including executives — are taking a 20 per cent pay cut amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a memo sent to staff, ROM director and CEO Josh Basseches said that the institution will likely not reopen to the public until the end of June, or possibly later.

“In the over 100 years since the founding of the ROM, an extended closure due to external circumstances such as this pandemic has never occurred before,” he said.

“The financial impacts on the museum as a result of the closure are sudden and profound.”

Basseches said that without ticket and retail sales, food service and client events, as well as an anticipated drop in philanthropic contributions, the ROM does “not have sufficient resources to fully support salary costs.”

As a result, he said, some employees will move to a reduced work week, while others will be required to take a temporary emergency leave of absence.

The museum will continue to pay full and part-time staff through April 10.

Donation bins overflowing

With donation bins overflowing and in some cases surrounded by illegally dumped garbage, Diabetes Canada has issued an open letter to community leaders and elected officials to help raise awareness about the issue.

The association, which stopped donation pickups on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the bin situation is “posing a serious health and safety issue.”

Many Canadians have used their extra time at home to declutter in recent weeks. However, with thrift stores closed and most bins taped off or full, there are few options available to donate items.

Diabetes Canada said it does not have the financial resources to deploy staff to clean the rubbish around its over 5,000 bins around the country.

The association said it has contacted government agencies to help remove the garbage, but efforts have been unsuccessful.

“Diabetes Canada donation bins are overflowing and some are becoming a dumping ground for well-meaning citizens who want to support our work,” the open letter said.

The donation pickup stoppage resulted in the temporary layoff of over 500 staffers, the association said.


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