Ontario calls in military to stop spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford is calling in the Canadian Armed Forces to stop the spread of COVID-19 within Ontario's long-term care homes.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Ford says that military personnel will be deployed to five long-term care homes to help staff in their care for patients.
“When you’re in a fight like this, you leave nothing off the table,” Ford said.
The premier did not specify exactly which homes will be receiving the military assistance, but Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said that crews will be deployed to facilities in the “greatest need.”
The military's role will be to provide assistance with the day-to-day operations, coordination, medical care and general support at those facilities.
The province says it will be making a formal request to access military reinforcements today.
Ford said that the military deployment would be a “small part” of the province’s plan to fight COVID-19 in Ontario's long-term care homes, which also includes enhanced screening at those facilities and an emergency order that took effect today that prohibits staff from working at multiple locations.
Long-term care residents represent the majority of the 659 deaths in the province.
According to Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, 447 residents and one staff member have died of COVID-19.
Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Wednesday they are still working to determine which homes will get support from the military.
Health officials also confirmed 128 outbreaks within the province’s 630 long-term care residences.
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that help from the military was not something his city requested from the province.
"The military has been asked to come in to help with long-term care in some of the real tragic challenges that we've all collectively faced there," Tory said.
"I will say in the case of our own long-term care residences, of which we have ten, we have redeployed public health professionals, nurses and other ... city staff to help the hard-pressed [long-term] staff to make sure that the residents are looked."
Tory said that, at the moment, military deployment is not something that has been discussed with the province and "nor has it been a need the city has expressed or articulated to the provincial government."
Health officials in Toronto reported a total of 4,069 cases of COVID-19 and that a total of 210 people have died of the disease.
Ford backpedals on reopening economy by Victoria Day
On Wednesday morning, Ford was a guest on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s “The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll” where he suggested that Victoria Day may be a target for reopening Ontario’s economy.
“If we continue down the road we're going publicly, yes, we can see things loosening up a bit," Ford said.
"People want hope. Everyone has a concern, no matter how old they are, they want to get out there."
However, in Wednesday’s news conference, Ford walked those comments back, saying that “everything is conditional.”
“There is never going to be just one day that we open up the economy. We are going to open it up with a trickle and just let it flow from there while constantly measuring."
“By no means are we going to have, for instance the May 24 weekend, we’re just going to open things up, that is absolutely not going to happen.”
On Tuesday, Ford said that he was facing mounting pressure to ease up on restrictions imposed by public health officials after updated modelling data suggested that community-spread cases may have peaked.
In the meantime, Ford said that his government is developing a framework to guide the “gradual, measured and safe” reopening of the economy.
With files from Ted Raymond