Ontario confirms 564 new COVID-19 cases as provincial total tops 9,500

Ontario reported 564 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the biggest-single day jump in cases that brings the total number in the province since the outbreak began to 9,525.

While confirmed cases are expected to rise each day with a more robust testing regime, the daily average growth rate in new cases has held steady at around 6 per cent for more than a week. 

Meanwhile, there’s still no decision on either cancelling or restarting the school year for publicly-funded schools across the province. 

At the province’s daily COVID-19 briefing on Friday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government is keeping the safety of students and staff a top priority, adding that at this point there’s no signs that schools will be re-opened before June. 

“This is determined based on health and science,” Premier Doug Ford said of keeping schools closed. 

Confirmed cases rising by 6%

The official death toll now sits at 478, however CBC News has collected data from regional public health units and counted at least 534 deaths, including two health-care workers.

Nearly half of the total cases are now considered resolved.

The province says it processed 8,899 COVID-19 samples since its last update, while 5,993 samples are currently waiting to be assessed. As of yesterday, Ontario’s Ministry of Health changed how testing numbers are being reported

Yaffe said the province has a goal of increasing the number of tests to as many as 19,000 per day. 

The number of hospitalized patients increased from 807 to 829, while those being treated in intensive care units fell somewhat to 245 from 254. Of those patients, 200 are on ventilators, up from the 188 reported in the last update.

Cases among residents and staff in Ontario long-term care and nursing homes rose 26 per cent to a total of 1,854. Outbreaks have officially been reported in 106 of the province’s 626 facilities, as well as 30 hospitals, the Ministry of Health says, accounting for 216 deaths. 

Ford said the province will unveil new modelling projection numbers on Monday about the spread of COVID-19, data which he has already seen.

Although Ford didn’t indicate whether or not the new numbers will project fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths than originally predicted, he said he reviewed the numbers Thursday night and “saw some positive results.”

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, confirmed the premier’s observation that the data is positive, saying on Friday that “it’s generally looking better.” 

But “we are not out of the woods,” Yaffe added.

“We now see that our numbers of cases are going up and the number of deaths,” she said. “We have to keep doing what we are doing.” 

Students from low-income families to receive iPads 

Ontario announced it’s stepping up the province’s at-home learning program by providing tools to students from low-income families.

The provincial government formed a partnership with Rogers and Apple, and will be distributing iPads with free wireless data plans to students “who need it most,” Lecce said Friday. 

With the help of technology, Lecce said “students are able to see their classmates, interface with their teacher, get that mentorship and support, and get through the curriculum to graduate.” 

Ontario’s virtual at-home learning program, which launched April 6, primarily uses online-learning. 

“I hope this gives you some peace of mind that your students will have the tools they need to continue learning,” Ford said Friday. 

Schools in Ontario have been closed since March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Publicly-funded schools have been closed since March 14 on a ministerial order from Lecce. Private schools were also closed a few days later as part of the province’s emergency declaration, but that order has also been extended. 

Schools were initially set to re-open on April 6, but both Premier Doug Ford and Lecce conceded that the closures would need to be prolonged as the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario continues to increase. 

The government recently switched to online classes to continue course work amid the closures.

Child-care concerns grow

A coalition of child care advocates says that without government relief, many centres won’t be able to pay their bills as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

Carolyn Ferns of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care estimates as many as half of the province’s 5-thousand centres that are closed and not collecting fees during the pandemic are in financial trouble.

She says many have had to lay off staff and cannot pay rent and other bills.

Ferns says some childcare centres will be able to apply for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account, which was expanded yesterday to help cover the cost of rent, but that relief could still be weeks away.

When asked about the fate of child-care centres at Friday’s briefing, Lecce said Ontario is working with the federal government to ensure the facilities receive additional support for operating costs.

A “critical” portion of that funding will be provided through Canada’s Emergency Wage Subsidy, of which all child-care centres are now eligible to receive, Lecce said.

Although he couldn’t confirm that no child care centres will close, Lecce said Ontario is doing everything it can to ease costs and “ensure the sector remains.” 

Larger outbreaks reported at long-term care homes 

Long-term care homes in Ontario continue to grapple with deadly outbreaks.

Of the 564 new cases on Friday, an estimated 334 were from long-term care homes.

Three homes in Ontario have reported more than 20 deaths each:

  • Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon: 29 deaths.
  • Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto: 31 deaths.
  • Seven Oaks in Toronto: 22 deaths.

Meanwhile, Extendicare Bayview in North York confirmed Friday that 51 residents and 12 staff have tested positive for COVID-19, and five residents have died. 

“We offer our sincere condolences to all families who have lost loved ones during this difficult time,” the home said in a statement. 

“Our residents and staff have shown incredible resilience and we truly appreciate the support we have received from the community.”   

Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Ont. confirmed that 16 residents have now died of the virus, while a staff member remains in hospital. Another staff member died Thursday evening — the second COVID-19-related death of a health-care worker in the province 

Cannabis sales way up

Ontario’s cannabis distributor has seen online orders triple since COVID-19 started sweeping the country and prevention measures were implemented.

The Ontario Cannabis Store says almost a third of orders are coming from new customers.

The OCS says it received between 2,500-3,500 orders before March 9, but in the weeks after mass adoption of physical distancing, those orders doubled to 5,000 and then doubled again, topping out at 13,000 in one particular week.

In a bid to continue squeezing out the illegal market and keep up with the demand, the distributor has staffed up, lowered prices on more than 240 cannabis products and launched free shipping during COVID-19 to make legal options more accessible. 

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