Premier Doug Ford Covid-19 lockdown

Ontario reports 1,417 new cases of COVID-19, schools won’t close early for winter break

Ontario is reporting 1,417 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday—a 13.5 per cent increase from the 1,249 cases reported the previous day. There are 32 more deaths (nearly three times the amount of deaths reported yesterday), and 1,495 more resolved cases.

Case counts are high in the usual hot spots:

  • 463 new cases in Peel
  • 410 new cases in Toronto
  • 178 new cases in York Region

In his daily press conference from Queen’s Park on Wednesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford warned that further restrictions could be put in place in COVID-19 hot spots.

“Right now, we’re staring down the barrel of another lockdown in these regions,” Ford said, noting that last week he asked Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, to come back with his recommendations on how to flatten the curve of the second wave.

“We’re expecting measures to be discussed at cabinet and announced in the coming days because, my friends, we need to hunker down. We need to stick together, and together we’ll get through this.”

When asked about the province’s decision not to extend winter break—despite Education Minister Stephen Lecce suggesting the day prior that this was being considered as a possible new COVID-19 measure—Ford said that the safest place for kids are in the schools, “not when there’s public spread out there.”

“The safest place with the cohorts are in schools, and so far, knock on wood, it’s working fairly well,” Ford said. He noted that out of 4,828 schools, only one has been shut down and over 99 per cent of students and staff are COVID-19 free.

“We want to come out here today and say that the kids will be in school,” he added.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that after consultation with health officials, the province won’t enforce an extended school closure over the holidays.

“We have consulted with the chief medical officer of health as well as the Public Health Measures Table and have determined that an extended winter holiday is not necessary at this time, given Ontario’s strong safety protocols, low levels of transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce wrote in a statement.

“We are fully committed to building upon our national leading plan to keep kids learning and safe. We will continue to consider any option and take decisive action to ensure we deliver on this shared priority of keeping schools open in January and beyond.”

His remarks resulted in a firestorm of responses on Twitter:

Ford also announced that the provincial government is providing $2.4 million to support an additional 13 Ontario Health Teams across the province to provide better care to patients. The goal is for patients to experience easier transitions from one provider to another, such as hospitals, home care providers or long-term care homes, with one patient story, one patient record/one care plan.

“While these new teams will provide better support for more Ontarians, we won’t stop until every person and every community in Ontario has access to this new improved model of care,” Ford said.

Further measures to protect long-term care home residents, staff and visitors were also discussed in Ford’s daily update. The province will also update testing guidance in communities with a greater transmission of COVID-19.

Beginning next week, essential caregivers and support workers who provide direct care to residents in long-term care homes in the orange, red and lockdown levels will need to be tested for COVID-19 weekly and show proof of a negative test result. Support workers who don’t provide direct care to residents will have to verbally attest to receiving a negative COVID-19 test result in the past two weeks.

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Article exclusive to TRNTO