Ontario declares state of emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency as the province tries to rapidly slow the spread of COVID-19.
"I've declared a state of emergency in the province of Ontario," Ford said at Queen's Park on Tuesday.
"This is a decision not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions. We've taken this measure because we must offer our full support in every power possible to help our health care sector fight the spread of COVID-19."
Ford made the announcement alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Rod Phillips and Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
Ford says the order bans public events of over 50 people, including parades, events and services within places of worship until March 31.
Effective immediately, the province has ordered the closure of all facilities providing indoor recreation programs, all public libraries, all private schools, all licensed childcare centres, all theatres, cinemas and concert venues, and all bars and restaurants except to provide takeout food and delivery.
Ford says this is not a provincial shut down and the majority of businesses won't be affected by the order. Essential services such as grocery stores will continue to operate.
"The vast majority of businesses, including those most vital to day-to-day life, will not be affected by this order. Essential services and needs will be available," Ford said.
"Right now we need to do eveything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to avoid overwhemling our heatlh care system. We must think about our children, parents and grandparents. We must think about the eldery, those with health issues and every other person across this province."
"I want to assure the people of Ontario the government is taking every step possible to flatten the curve. I want to urge calm. No expensive will be spared to support Ontarians in need."
Ontario has set aside a $100-million contingency fund, and is receiving $200 million from the federal government.
The money will be used to open 75 more critical care beds in hospitals, as well as 500 post-acute care beds and to help hospitals set up 25 more COVID-19 assessment centres.
Ontario is also purchasing more personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and surgical gowns for front-line health workers, as well as more ventilators.
There will also be more money for long-term care homes for additional staffing and infection control measures, and a fund is being set up to provide respite care and child-care services for front-line workers in COVID-19 assessment centres.
Ontario COVID-19 patient dies
Ontario's health minister has confirmed a patient with COVID-19 has died.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, Christine Elliott addressed the fatal Muskoka region case, adding that it is unclear at this time whether the novel coronavirus is in fact the cause of death.
"There has been a death. I’m very sorry and extend my condolences to this person’s family," she said. "We have asked for the assistance of the coroner’s office to do a complete examination and investigation to determine whether this person died because of COVID or with COVID."
The man in his 70s could be the first COVID-19 related death in the province.
Twelve cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Ontario on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 190, including five recoveries. No new cases were reported in Toronto on Tuesday.
There are more than 1,567 people currently under investigation for the virus. More than 9,415 people in Ontario have tested negative.
Tuesday's number is down significantly from Sunday's record of 42 new cases in Ontario.
Toronto mayor thanks province for 'decisive action'
John Tory has thanked the Ontario government for taking swift action to declare a state of emergency in the province.
"I fully support this declaration," Tory said in a statement on Tuesday.
"This declaration will help the province and all cities, including Toronto, protect the health of our residents and further prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Ontario cancels standardized tests for students due to pandemic
The Ontario government announced Tuesday that it is cancelling standardized tests for elementary and high school students throughout the province for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the move was being made in light of the “immense pressures” students are facing in their academic careers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the past days, my Ministry has consulted with parents, students, educators, and administrators, on the future of standardized testing for elementary and secondary students. Following our consultation, and as part of our plan to protect students and staff, all remaining standardized tests for the 2019-2020 school year have been cancelled,” Lecce said in a statement.
Lecce said the cancellation of the EQAO tests will not impede student graduation.
“We will continue to follow the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure the safety of all students and staff,” he said.
The province announced last week that all taxpayer-funded schools would be closed for at least two weeks past the March break in order to help prevent further spread of COVID-19.
On Tuesday morning, premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province as businesses schools, universities and public spaces shut down to contain the spread of COVID-19.
With files from The Canadian Press and CP24.com Reporter Joshua Freeman.