COVID-19 resurgence in Ontario increases pressure on Doug Ford’s government

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Ontario’s COVID-19 cases are increasing at a rate not seen in months, increasing pressure on Premier Doug Ford’s government and public health officials to take further action to slow the spread of the coronavirus .The average number of new COVID-19 infections confirmed daily in the province has doubled in just three weeks. Ontario’s daily count topped 200 in each of the past three days, which has not happened since early June.

The trend is worrying, said Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, in an interview with CBC News.

“I thought we were going to see this increase in cases a bit later,” Bogoch said on Sunday. “But it’s real and it’s happening now and it’s definitely concerning. We certainly want to make sure that doesn’t continue to develop. ”

Ford at its most recent press conference on Friday described the trend as an “increase” limited to Ontario’s most densely populated urban areas.

“Where we are seeing an increase is in a few areas,” said Ford. “This is not the fault of the City of Toronto or the Region of Peel. This is happening, we have to work together. ”

A senior provincial official told CBC News there is “a growing sense of concern” within government and among public health leaders over the rising number of COVID-19 in Ontario. If the trend continues, the official said the province would consider measures targeted at specific sites and activities that are contributing to the infection rate.

The region of Toronto, Ottawa and Peel, which includes the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, accounts for the bulk of new cases in the province.

Social gatherings, travel and workplace outbreaks appear to be behind the spread in Peel, area medical officer of health Dr Lawrence Loh said in an interview with CBC News.

Last Monday, the province announced a four-week hiatus on any further easing of pandemic restrictions. Yet the number of cases has increased since then, although classes have yet to resume for the roughly 500,000 students in public and Catholic school boards in Toronto and Peel.

“So many Ontarians are putting so much work into flattening the curve, reducing the number of infections, it’s really bewildering to see these numbers go up,” said NDP MP Marit Stiles.

This surge in new cases – and the government’s efforts to prevent it from becoming the second wave of the pandemic – will likely dominate debate as MPs return to Queen’s Park after an eight-week hiatus.

Dr. Lawrence Loh is the Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel, which includes the cities of Brampton and Mississauga. (CBC)

The provincial legislature sits Monday for the first time since July 21, giving opposition parties the chance to confront Ford and his ministers in question period.

Ford has placed itself at the forefront for Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic by holding a televised press conference almost every day for the past six months. His political approval ratings have skyrocketed, especially after the daily number of new coronavirus cases in Ontario fell from its high in late April.

Advocating for a safe back to school will be a top priority for the NDP in the legislature, Stiles said.

“We think this is a critical part of making sure that we weather this storm and that we don’t see a very rapid increase in infections,” Stiles said in an interview with CBC News.

“There is a lack of confidence in the government’s plan. Many parents feel that schools are not safe enough. ”

The province has demanded that all school boards offer the option of distance education this fall, and parents are choosing that route by the thousands. In the Toronto District School Board alone, some 60,000 students opt for virtual classrooms, or about a quarter of the board’s enrollment. An increase in demand for online learning from an additional 10,000 students over the past week has forced the Peel District School Board to delay the start of its distance education courses.

School is picking up for some two million students in Ontario, though tens of thousands are choosing to take all of their classes online to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press)

The government must make public a plan to prevent the dreaded “second wave” of COVID-19 infections, said Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca.

“Other provinces like British Columbia and Quebec have presented their versions of how they are preparing or preparing for a possible second wave,” Del Duca said in an interview.

“I think it would go a long way in giving Ontarians the peace of mind of knowing that Doug Ford has a similar plan and seeing him share it with the people of Ontario.

The government will release a comprehensive readiness plan in the coming weeks, PC House leader Paul Calandra said.

“Cabinet and caucus have worked closely together on this, learning the lessons of Wave One,” Calandra said in an interview. “This plan will encompass everything we’ve learned… to make sure we’re ready if the second wave hits. “

When the Legislative Assembly resumes on Monday, there will be no limit to the number of Ontario’s 124 Members who can sit at a time. The NDP has written to President Ted Arnott expressing concern that this goes against public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Richard Agecoutay / CBC)

The plan includes what will be the largest flu vaccination campaign in Ontario’s history and accelerated efforts to address the backlog of elective surgeries.

Within the legislature, measures to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 will be mixed.

For example, there won’t be crowds of reporters in the hallways asking questions of ministers, known colloquially as scrums. Instead, these post-question period sessions will take place in the Queen’s Park media studio, which has become a familiar sight to Ontarians in recent months as the location for briefings from the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, Dr. David Williams.

However, there is no limit to the number of Ontario’s 124 MPs who can be in the Legislative Chamber at one time, as was the case in the spring. The NDP has written to President Ted Arnott expressing their concerns.

MPs must wear masks

“Health experts and officials, including the Prime Minister, have stressed the need to limit gatherings. Members of Parliament should lead by example, ”said Peggy Sattler, deputy leader of the NDP, in the letter.

MPs will wear masks when not addressing the legislature, Calandra said. “We will do our best to make sure we continue to physically distance ourselves around the house,” he said.

Under provincial law, the government is required to table a report in the Legislature by November 21 on the four-month state of emergency that was declared in response to the pandemic.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips’ full budget for fiscal year 2020-2021, which was postponed to March due to the onset of the pandemic, is due in early November.

The government is due to release its 2019-20 spending statement, known as the Public Accounts, by the end of September.

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