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Ontario is in a COVID-19 second wave: Premier Ford


TORONTO — Ontario is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford declared Monday, saying his government was looking at all options to combat an alarming surge in cases.

Ford said the 700 latest cases reported by the province — the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic — were extremely troubling and called on the public to help fight the latest spike.

“What we don’t know yet is how bad the second wave will be,” he said. “The reality is it’s up to each of us, together. Our collective actions will decide if we face a wave or tsunami.”

The declaration of a second wave comes as Ford’s government continues to roll out a fall pandemic preparedness plan that critics have said is coming too late.

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On Monday, the premier announced an additional $52 million to hire 3,700 more nurses and personal support workers to fight the pandemic. He added that there would be more measures announced in the coming days.

“My friends, this is extremely, extremely serious,” Ford said. “Everything is on the table.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said the province must work to flatten the curve of the virus again to allow hospitals to respond without being overwhelmed.

Dr. David Williams said people became too casual as virus numbers improved in late August, and urged them to now be more vigilant.

“We want to move ahead of the curve … to flatten this curve as you did successfully on the first curve,” Williams said. “I think we can do that again, if we focus on our task at hand.”

But Williams said the province will take a more “surgical” approach to addressing the virus during this wave, focusing on hotspots as opposed to taking a one-size-fits all approach for the whole province.

Of Monday’s cases, 344 were reported in Toronto, 104 cases in Peel Region, 89 in Ottawa and 56 in York Region.

The latest figures prompted Ontario’s hospitals to call on the government to reinstate restrictions in those regions.

The Ontario Hospital Association said the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa should move back to Stage Two of the province’s pandemic response, which saw restrictions on non-essential businesses like restaurants, gyms, and movie theatres.

Association President Anthony Dale said hospitals could become overwhelmed with patients if such action isn’t taken.

“We can no longer retain a false sense of security and belief that this will not happen to us,” he said in a statement. “At this rate, Ontario hospitals are facing a direct threat to their ability to continue to delivering the highest quality of care to Ontarians.”

The average acute care occupancy rate of Ontario’s hospitals is 89 per cent currently, Dale said, but some of the facilities are already at 100 per cent capacity.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province would prefer to not reinstate any Stage Two restrictions but is watching the situation in the GTA and Ottawa closely.

“If we have to tighten up even more we will … because it’s absolutely necessary to protect the health and safety of everyone in Ontario,” she said.

The government said Monday that 128 people are currently hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 29 in intensive care.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath urged the government to make investments needed to get ahead of the second wave.

“We shouldn’t need to slide back into Stage Two,” she said. “But this government is currently doing nothing to prevent that.”

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner asked Ford to outline the metrics that will trigger school closures and a return to Stage Two.

“People need reassurance that the premier is not asleep at the wheel right now, when his actions will determine the severity of the second wave,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s medical officer of health said Monday that she is recommending residents limit contact with those they don’t live with.

She said the concept of having 10 people within your social circle, introduced by the province this spring, was sensible at the time but that has now changed since schools and businesses have reopened and case counts are up.

“In Toronto, we have to acknowledge that the extent of infection spread, and the nature of city life, means that the concept of … the social circle no longer reflects the circumstances in which we live,” she said.

De Villa is also recommending changes that would reduce the number of people permitted in bars and restaurants to a maximum of 75 patrons, down from 100. The number of people permitted at a table would also be lowered from 10 to six people.

She is also recommending bars and restaurants collect contact information from every patron and that music be no louder than normal conversation in the establishment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2020.