'I just beg people to be patient': Ontario premier says he's being pressured to reopen economy
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that he's being pressured to reopen the economy and ease restrictions after updated modelling data suggested the community-spread cases may have peaked in the province.
But the premier, however, is urging everyone to be patient.
"There's no one out there that wants to move forward on the economy more than I do, but we would rather be safe than sorry," Ford said while speaking to reporters on Tuesday. "People are going to have to hang in there. I’m getting lobbied hard by so many different groups and organizations. But it's easy to say open, open, open until we get a second wave of this and it bites us in the backside. I just beg people to be patient.”
Ford said that he is even being pressured by his nephew, who wanted to know if he will be able to go to summer camp.
"I even got a call from Rob’s son… saying, 'Uncle Doug, am I going to camp or not?' And I told him, 'You know I can’t answer that,'" Ford said. "He goes, 'Well find out and get back to me right away,' and I thought, really? I'm getting lobbied by my 12-year-old nephew too."
On Monday, Ford said that his government was starting to create a plan that will guide the "gradual, measured and safe" reopening of the economy. He said there would be multiple benchmarks that would need to be achieved before the province eases any restrictions.
No further details have been released regarding the criteria or benchmarks, but the premier said they will be created in consultation with health officials, business associations and municipal partners.
He urged people to continue physical distancing and to adhere to the recommendations made by provincial health officials.
Ford announces slew of investment to help seniors
On Tuesday, Ford also announced new funding and partnerships to help the province’s seniors and people with disabilities as the government continues to battle the impacts of COVID-19.
Ford said the province is investing $11 million in the Meals on Wheels program, which has been delivering food, medicine and other necessities to seniors forced to self-isolate.
"We can only get through these difficult times if we have each other’s backs," Ford said standing beside Health Minister Christine Elliott and Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith. "No one must be left behind. We have to take care of our own."
The premier also announced the government will be doubling some Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments to provide “support to the seniors that need it most.” Ford said that individuals will receive up to $166 a month and couples will get up to $332 a month.
The doubled payments will continue for about six months, officials said.
In addition, the province will be investing $40 million in the Residential Relief Fund to help victim shelters and organizations offering developmental services, child welfare, and social services with COVID-19-related costs. Ford said the money would be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and to help with staffing.
Facilities should 'put their hand up' for PPE, minister says
Smith was asked about Participation House, a facility in Markham, Ont., that supporting adults with developmental and physical disabilities, where the majority of residents have contracted COVID-19.
The facility has been plagued with staffing shortage after a number of workers decided not to return once the outbreak was confirmed.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti has been advocating for more PPE at the facility while the Markham Stouffville Hospital has stepped up help with patient care and HR support.
Smith said that it was an “unprecedented time,” but he heard staffing was no longer an issue. He also said that if any facilities need PPE they should “put their hand up” and the province will make sure they get supplies.
Participation House is eligible for funding through the Residential Relief Fund, a spokesperson for the minister's office said.
At least two people have died at Participation House as a result of COVID-19, and as of last week 37 of the 42 residents had tested positive for the virus.