'We have to be a lot clearer,' Ford says amid confusion over COVID-19 restrictions
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his own government and public health officials need to do a better job delivering COVID-19 messaging in order to avoid confusion.
The premier made the comments during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon as reporters asked him about conflicting messages from local public health units, provincial officials and politicians.
“Sometimes the messaging isn't as clear as it should be and it all comes down to communicating with each other better,” Ford told reporters.
“I think we all need to do a better job, even myself included … we have to just be a lot clearer, all levels of government and all chief medical officers of health.”
Toronto’s medical officers of health has been calling for further COVID-19 related restrictions as the number of infections rise, including the closure of indoor dining.
Dr. Eileen de Villa had recently asked the province to give officials in Toronto the power to ban indoor dining and cancel indoor group fitness classes and sports activities.
She warned that “without quick action,” there is an “acute risk that the virus will continue to spread widely” in the city.
Ford responded this week by saying he needed to see "hard evidence" before agreeing to shut down indoor dining in Toronto and other hotspots because of the impact it could have on people’s livelihoods.
Ford admitted that even the mixed messaging being delivered to the public about restrictions and recommendations could impact local businesses caught in the crossfire.
He also admitted that it could confuse patrons of these businesses who are not sure what is and is not safe to do.
“We're going to work with Dr. de Villa and her team and work through this,” Ford said. “I understand she feels the weight of the world on her shoulders she's dealing with the largest city.”
“[There are] a lot of complications throughout a large city of close to three million people.”
The premier had stirred confusion on Tuesday during a news conference when he said that he would be limiting his own Thanksgiving dinner to up to 10 people, which is in keeping with the emergency order limiting indoor social gatherings.
He made the comments after Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe and de Villa both urged people in the province to mark Thanksgiving with only members of their immediate household and forgo big family dinners.
Ford went back on his comments Wednesday and said he would limit his celebrations to his immediate household.
"For this Thanksgiving weekend it's not enough just to limit the size of our gatherings. We need to stick to our immediate households," Ford said. "As we face the second wave and work to flatten the next curve, each of us needs to be extra vigilant."
New funding announced for mental health supports
During the news conference on Wednesday, Ford also announced that his government was investing additional funding to expand access to “critical mental health and addictions supports” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mental health is as important as physical health and I'm very proud to announce we are investing an additional $176 million this year to support the people of Ontario when it comes to mental health,” Ford told reporters.
“That's $176 million to fix the fragmented mental health care system we inherited to create new services, and to expand existing programs.”
The premier said the funds will go into building four more beds at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, supporting addictions day and evening care and hiring more nurse practitioners for detox services.