Ontario reports 190 new COVID-19 cases, Ford government extends emergency orders

Ontario’s government is reporting 190 new cases of COVID-19, marking the fourth day in a row the province has seen under 200 new reported infections.

That brings the province’s cumulative case count as of June 16 to 32,744, with 27,784 cases now considered resolved. The bulk of the new cases were found in the Toronto area.

Some 24,205 tests were processed Tuesday, according to the latest data. A further 21,635 cases are currently under investigation.

Ontario has now completed over a million COVID-19 tests since the start of the pandemic.

The number of people hospitalized, in intensive care, and on a ventilator all dropped in Ontario as well, coming in at 383, 92, and 65, respectively. 

Today and yesterday mark the first time ICU admissions have been below 100 in the province since March 29.

The province is reporting 2,550 deaths, which is an increase of 12 from Tuesday. However, a CBC News count based on data from regional public health units puts the real toll at at least 2,603. 

Premier Doug Ford appeared at a news conference alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott on Wednesday afternoon, and said today marks three months to the day that the province first declared a state of emergency.

“There are unmistakable signs that we are making real progress in our fight against this virus,” Elliott said.

The health minister noted the province has been seeing more resolved cases than new cases on a daily basis for a week now, with 1,400 fewer active cases in the province compared to last Tuesday.

Ontario is now leading the country in daily testing, Elliott said, and scheduled surgeries are resuming.

Meanwhile, the province has extended all emergency orders currently in force until the end of June.

Ford says the province will review each of the orders on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they can be adjusted or lifted as officials work to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Some emergency orders were eased earlier this month, including a limit on social gatherings which is now set at 10 people instead of the previous limit of five.

Most of the province has also entered the second stage of reopening, allowing more businesses to operate again.

The existing emergency orders were set to expire on Friday, but are now in effect until June 30.

On Wednesday evening, the government tabled a motion to extend the provincial state of emergency 15 days past the planned expiry date of June 30.

The government expects the motion to be debated in the legislature next week and a vote to follow.

“Thanks to the collective efforts of every Ontarian, the COVID-19 trends in our province are moving in the right direction and the premier is hopeful that this will the final extension,” Ivana Yelich, spokesperson for the premier, said in a statement.

Ford first declared a state of emergency on March 17, which allowed the government to issue emergency orders.

Minister pushing insurance companies

Insurance companies say they have provided $685 million in relief to Ontario drivers using their cars less during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the province’s finance minister says more should be done.

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority says about 70 per cent of policy holders are receiving some form of relief, with an average savings of $150.

The regulatory body says the $685 million in relief amounts to about five per cent of the total annual premiums Ontario drivers pay.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips says 10 out of the 14 major insurance companies have provided rebates to customers.

Phillips announced a regulatory change in April to enable the companies to provide auto insurance premium rebates to consumers for up to 12 months after the emergency has ended.

Phillips says he will look at the companies not supporting their customers and will publicly name them if necessary.

School reopening recommendations

The Hospital for Sick Children has also released its recommendations for kids to head back to school in the province.

In a new report, SickKids says it is critical to “balance the risk of direct infection and transmission” for children with “the harms of school closure on their physical and mental health.

“While school closures may have been reasonable as part of the early pandemic response, current evidence and experience support the concept that children can return to school in a manner that maximizes children’s health and minimizes risks from a public health perspective,” the report reads.

SickKids is not recommending that children wear masks, but is recommending that large gatherings and assemblies be cancelled for the immediate future, lunch breaks be staggered, and consideration be made for classes being held outside.

If that’s not possible, the report says, efforts should be made to rearrange classrooms to keep as much space as possible between students.

A provincial spokesperson said in a statement that the government is committed to announcing a plan for the re-opening of schools in September by the end of June.

Ford said Wednesday that he wouldn’t risk anything that “puts our kids in jeopardy.” He also said he plans to sit down with Ontario’s teachers’ unions to discuss strategy in an effort to keep education workers safe.

“They’re so important to our children, they’re so important to the education system,” Ford said.

Temporary ban on commercial evictions passed

Meanwhile, the Ontario legislature passed a bill on Wednesday to temporarily ban commercial evictions.

The government said it will protect commercial tenants from being locked out or having their assets seized due to the negative impacts of COVID-19.

It’s retroactive to May 1, which is a month earlier than the Progressive Conservatives had previously proposed. The New Democrats have been calling for the measures to be retroactive to mid-March.

The NDP also wants to see all businesses qualify, not just ones that would be covered under a federal-provincial rent relief program, but whose landlords won’t apply.

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