Ontario won't make masks mandatory as province sees 189 new cases

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he doesn’t want to see the border with the United States opened after July 21, considering the resurgence in COVID-19 cases in many U.S. states.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has extended a ban on non-essential travel between the two countries until at least July 21, and Ford says even lifting the ban after that seems too early.

“Not when their COVID cases are spiking right now, I’m not in favour,” said Ford.

The premier said he loves Americans, but Ontario is not ready to welcome people from south of the border.

“This isn’t over,” Ford told reporters at his daily COVID-19 briefing Thursday. “We have to stay focused and we can’t let our guard down.”

Ford pointed to parts of the United States that have seen disturbingly high surges in new cases of the virus. Florida, for example, has seen more than 5,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours alone.

“Look at Florida, Texas, Arizona, California. I don’t want to be those states.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams sent a similar message Thursday afternoon, cautioning Ontarians to remain cautious.

“It’s not open up and be casual, it’s open up and be careful,” said Williams.

He pointed out that many people are not keeping up with physical distancing as was seen over the weekend when images emerged of packed beach areas along Lake Ontario.

Thousands of people flocked to the beach by Lake Ontario in Toronto on Saturday. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Asked if he would consider making masks mandatory across the province, however, Williams said he will leave that to municipalities to decide, adding it is local authorities who will ultimately need to enforce such orders if they choose to implement them.

“How will they enforce it? And how do they deal with persons who can’t physically do it? And how are they going to lay it out in the bylaws and orders?” Williams asked.

“We leave that to their discretion because not all municipalities want that, but some have unique situations that they’re very concerned about.”

Meanwhile, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti moved a motion Thursday to make masks mandatory in all indoor spaces in York Region, as well as crowded outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

“I previously called on the provincial government to create a consistent policy across Ontario. In lieu of that; extra precautions should be taken in large urban centres and across the GTA,” Scarpitti said in part in a news release. 

“We just have to look at the situation that is unfolding in some jurisdictions south of the border.”

Ford also said Thursday he was “a little shocked” after Trudeau commented earlier Thursday on a news story alleging the provincial government rejected calls for more funding for long-term care homes in the lead-up to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ford addressed Trudeau’s comments, saying the prime minister has so far been “pretty good” in terms of working together on the fight against the virus, and said that he wants to see that collaboration continue.

Ford says nursing home report ‘unfair’

Late Wednesday evening, the Toronto Sun published a story claiming the province had turned down two separate proposals for long-term care funding. The story has since been pulled from the Sun’s website but remains online on various other Postmedia outlets. CBC News has not confirmed any of the details it contained.

On Thursday morning, Trudeau responded to the story saying, “It’s provincial jurisdiction. It’s them who have failed our seniors.”

Asked for reaction, Ford addressed a story by Postmedia but did not specify it was published in the Sun.

Ford also addressed an analysis released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information that found the proportion of Canadian COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities is about twice the average of rates from other developed countries.

WATCH | Ford rejects conclusions from report on long-term care deaths:

Doug Ford says the comparison to deaths in Spain is faulty because of the methodology used to arrive at the figures. 0:40

“I just think it’s a little unfair,” said Ford, adding that comparing Canada with a country like Spain wasn’t a fair comparison.

The study’s researchers have pointed to limitations that prevent some comparisons — countries vary in COVID-19 testing and reporting practices, and in their definition of long-term care.

Ontario’s curve appears to be flat — for now

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 189 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as most areas of the Windsor-Essex public health unit — the last to get the green light to proceed into the next phase of reopening — join the rest of the province. 

The new cases mark a 0.6 per cent increase, bringing the cumulative number in Ontario since the outbreak began in late January to 34,205. 

About 86.3 per cent of those infections of the novel coronavirus are resolved, the Ministry of Health says. Another 198 cases were marked resolved yesterday. 

With the majority of the province having been in Stage 2 of reopening for a week or more, the five-day rolling average of new daily cases — a measure that smoothes peaks and valleys in the data — has remained flat. 

Twenty-seven of Ontario’s 34 public health units confirmed five or fewer cases yesterday, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted in a series of tweets this morning. Ten of those 27 reported no new cases at all. 

There are currently 2,036 active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, 13 fewer than were active in the last update.

Meanwhile, the number of people in hospital with confirmed cases of COVID-19 fell from 278 to 270.

Those being treated in intensive care units and with ventilators — 69 and 47, respectively — fell to the lowest levels since the province started publicly reporting those figures at the beginning of April.

Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by 10, up to 2,641. A CBC News count based on data provided directly by public health units, which avoids lag times in reporting, puts the real roll at 2,679.

CBC | Toronto News

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