Ontario redeploying staff to long-term care homes, as provincial COVID-19 death toll tops 850

The Ontario government announced Saturday that it’s introducing new emergency orders to allow staff to be redeployed to long-term care homes to “ensure they can work where they are needed most during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

As of Friday, there were 131 outbreaks in retirement homes across the province, with 573 deaths total. Some 2,287 residents and 1,089 staff have also tested positive.

Under the new order, health-service providers, including hospitals, will be allowed to temporarily reassign frontline staff to homes in need, according to a news release issued Saturday. 

“Our long-term care homes are under attack or at high risk of an attack from this deadly virus,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. 

“That’s why we are continually shoring up our defences and fortifying the iron ring of protection around these vulnerable seniors and staff.” 

The emergency order will also provide staffing flexibility to employers in the intervenor sector, which helps people who have a combined loss of hearing an vision, the release said.

The province says employers in that sector will now have temporary authority to carry out tasks needed to support people who are deafblind, while ensuring there are measures in place to allow for physical distancing. 

“These new emergency orders will allow us to get even more boots on the ground in our long-term care homes, and ensure those with visual or hearing disabilities continue receiving the support they deserve,” Ford said. 

Military sent to long-term care homes

Meanwhile, the first Canadian military members are also being sent to long-term care homes to help combat the outbreaks. 

A convoy of vehicles arrived at Orchard Villa in Pickering, Ont. on Friday afternoon. 

Orchard Villa is one of five of the hardest-hit long-term care homes where Premier Doug Ford asked the federal government for military backup earlier this week.

Here’s the full list of homes receiving help: 

  • Orchard Villa, 40 deaths, 104 resident cases, 59 staff cases. 
  • Eatonville Care Centre, 37 deaths, 143 cases.
  • Altamont Community Care Centre, 31 resident deaths and one staff member, 96 resident cases, five staff cases. 
  • Hawthorne Place, nine deaths, 47 cases. 
  • Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor, two deaths, 49 resident cases, 21 staff cases. 

This map shows the five nursing homes recieving military support and the COVID-19 death toll at each of those homes. (CBC News Graphics)

“Eatonville Care Centre was pleased to learn this afternoon that the province is providing military support to our home as we work to manage the COVID-19 outbreak,” Evelyn MacDonald, the facilitie’s executive director,  said in a statement on Friday.

“These resources will assist our hard-working staff as they continue to prioritize the health and safety of our residents.”

Provincial death toll tops 850 

The province reported 763 deaths on Friday, though CBC News has counted 851 deaths according to data from local health units. Some 7,087 people have recovered. 

Ontario also reported a record-breaking 640 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the province since the outbreak began to 13,519. 

Meanwhile, hospitalizations from the virus rose to 910 from 877.

The number of patients in intensive care and on ventilators increased, bringing the totals to 243 and 193, respectively. 

Ford is set to speak during the province’s daily COVID-19 briefing at 1 p.m. Saturday. CBC Toronto will carry that live in the player above. 

Framework to reopen economy expected next week 

The provincial government also said it will release a framework early next week for how it plans to reopen Ontario’s economy.

During his daily news briefing on the COVID-19 crisis on Friday, Ford said community spread of the virus is moving in the right direction. But he also cautioned that any plans to reopen would come with the caveat of putting the health and safety of Ontario residents first.

“[The plan] will provide a gradual and measured approach for opening up,” Ford said.

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