TORONTO – On the same day that Ontario reported 700 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest recorded number since the beginning of the pandemic – Premier Doug Ford stated that Ontario is now in the second wave of the pandemic.
“Today’s numbers are deeply concerning,” said Ford during a press conference on Monday. “Our health officials are telling us that Ontario is now in the second wave of COVID-19.
“We know this wave will be more complicated, more complex; it will be worse than the first wave we faced earlier this year.”
Ford urged Ontarians to follow the guidance of Public Health officials, download the COVID Alert app and exercise caution in the coming weeks to help stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s absolutely critical,” said the premier. “If we can get everyone to take these simple steps, we can tip the scale. We can avoid the worst because we know we are in the second wave. We know it will be worse, but we don’t know yet how bad the second wave will be.
“Our collective actions will decide if we face a wave or a tsunami.”
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Monday that Public Health experts have a lot more data at their disposal now than they did when the pandemic began, however it remains to be seen how this second wave will unfold in Ontario.
“We’re better prepared this time than the first wave; we have more things available, more documents, and more metrics being measured in all sectors. We see those things nudging, and we want to move ahead of the curve… to stop this, to flatten this curve as we did successfully on the first curve. I think we can do this if we focus on the tasks at hand,” he said.
Williams stated that we are seeing numbers similar to the first wave and made a point of stating that more testing is being done.
“In that time (the first wave), the maximum tests we were doing a day, around the highest peak, was around 10,000 tests. We’re doing 41,000 to 43,000 (tests) at the moment. So, it’s a different curve, a different epidemic,” he said.
Williams asked the public to “hunker down.”
“People have gotten really casual,” he said. “I think by everybody refocusing – we have some ideas and suggestions on that – we can turn this one around.”
Some regions to go back to stage two?
Some, including the Ontario Hospitals Association, are asking the province to move some of the hot spot regions – Toronto, Peel, Ottawa and York – back into stage two to help alleviate stress on the health care system.
Minister of Health Christine Elliott said on Monday that she understands the concerns of hospitals, however the province does not want to send regions back to stage two unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“If we have to, we will,” she said. “We’re watching this very closely.”
New funding to recruit, retain health care workers
On Monday, the Ontario government also announced $52.5 million in funding to recruit, retain and support more than 3,700 frontline health care workers and caregivers to help meet any surge in demand.
The funding is part of the province’s COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19.
“It’s the thousands of nurses, personal support workers, and other frontline workers who have made the difference in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ford. “Today’s significant investment will allow us to recruit, retain, and quickly deploy a militia of health care heroes, caregivers, and volunteer professionals to care for our seniors and most vulnerable and ensure our health care system is prepared to deal with any outbreaks or surges in cases.”
Of the announced funding, $26.3 million is earmarked to support personal support workers (PSWs) and supportive care workers, including:
- $14 million for the Personal Support Worker training funds to continue training PSWs in the home and community care and long-term care sectors;
- $10.3 million for the new Personal Support Worker Return of Service Program, to recruit and retain recent graduates to work in long-term care homes and in the home and community care sectors. This program will provide a $5,000 incentive to 2,000 recent graduates for a six-month commitment to work in these settings;
- $1.3 million to train 160 supportive care workers to provide basic home support services; and
- $700,000 in accelerated PSW training for 220 students with prior health experience to practice in Ontario.
Nurses will receive $26 million of the announced funding, including:
- $18 million for Ontario’s Nursing Graduate Guarantee program, which provides full-time salary and benefits for over 600 nurses with a focus on recruiting in areas of need such as long-term care homes and acute care settings; and
- Up to $8 million to add over 800 nurses to the health system in areas of need across the province.