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Ontario narrows list of essential businesses, limits construction

Friday, April 3rd 2020, 4:01 pm - Ontario confirmed 462 new COVID-19 cases Friday, death toll at 97

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will be shutting down some parts of the province's construction industry amid efforts to contain COVID-19.

The changes come as the government updates its list of essential businesses and services in response to recommendations from public health officials to further restrict physical interactions between people.

Private sector industrial, commercial and institutional projects will be affected, while public sector infrastructure work and some residential construction will be allowed to continue.

Projects related to the health-care sector, including any work necessary to ensure the production of critical equipment and medical devices, as well those required to maintain the operations of petrochemical plants and refineries, will be exempted from the shut down.

Ford said he'll continue to follow the advice of public health officials to determine whether the list of essential businesses needs to be further refined, but reaffirmed that supply chains for food and other essential items will remain in place, meaning grocery stores and pharmacies, for example, will remain open.

Meanwhile, Ontario's retail cannabis outlets have been taken off the essential list and will be forced to close, although people can still order from the province's online store.

CBC Ontario construction worker Public-sector infrastructure projects and some residential construction will be exempted from the shutdown. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Meanwhile, the province's top health officials revealed projections that suggest COVID-19 could kill 3,000 to 15,000 people in the province over the course of the pandemic, which could last up to two years. You can read more about that here, or review the province's presentation of that data for yourself at the bottom of this story.

"I think it's important that we're all robustly realistic about the scale of the challenge we face," Dr. Peter Donnelly, who heads Public Health Ontario, said at the news conference on Friday.

But those projections also show that Ontario's actions so far to slow the spread of COVID-19 have prevented thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases, and that stricter action today would save hundreds more lives.

Just two days ago Premier Doug Ford resisted calls to release the projections. Now, he says the move could also serve as a "wake-up call" to some Ontarians who aren't taking physical distancing measures seriously.

"These numbers are stark and sobering," Ford said at a news conference following the release of the projections on Friday.

PROVINCIAL TOTAL OF CASES UP TO 3,255

Ontario confirmed 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 3,255.

The official tally includes 67 deaths, however CBC News has accumulated data from local public health units and counted 97 deaths in the province.

Another 1,023 cases are considered resolved — a roughly 30 per cent jump since the last update.

Some 1,245 people are awaiting test results, more than 800 fewer than Thursday. A total of 66,753 tests have been administered provincewide.

The newest data provides a snapshot of the situation in Ontario as of 4 p.m. ET yesterday.

In terms of hospitalizations:

  • 462 cases of COVID-19 have been hospitalized.
  • 194 cases are in intensive care units.
  • 140 cases are on ventilators.

EXPERT: HOW SOCIAL DISTANCING HAS AFFECTED ONTARIO'S CURVE

The province also offered this breakdown of cases since Jan. 15, 2020:

48.5 per cent are male, while 50.9 per cent are female. About 32 per cent of cases are 60 years of age and older. Greater Toronto Area public health units account for 53 per cent of cases. Meanwhile, a nursing home in central Ontario is reporting four more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 20.

The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

CBC photo social distancing The City of Toronto passed a bylaw this week allowing for fines up to $5,000 for anyone failing to physically distance in public spaces. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

FALSE TEST RESULTS IN PEEL

Meanwhile, a regional health unit west of Toronto has apologized after it mistakenly mailed letters to 16 people telling them that their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were in fact positive.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, interim medical officer of health in Peel, said in a statement that the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday. His unit was made aware of the errors late Thursday, he added.

"I know the relief those residents felt for a few moments has sadly been transformed into feelings of fear and uncertainty. Our team is working quickly to notify these residents and make sure they have what they need to manage this difficult situation," Loh said.

An investigation revealed that several positive test slips were mixed with a batch of negative results received from labs, according to Loh. Peel's health unit has changed its process to avoid repeating the mistakes again.

"On behalf of the Region of Peel, I extend apologies to those residents impacted by this error," Loh said.

EXPERT: STRONG ACTION NOW WOULD LOWER ONTARIO DEATHS IN THE FUTURE

ONLINE PORTAL FOR TEST RESULTS

Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced a new online site for the public to access their COVID-19 test results.

The hope is that it will ease the burden on local public health units "so that they can better focus on containing COVID-19," Elliott said in a news release.

Further, the province also issued a new order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to give health units more flexibility through hiring retired nurses, medical students and volunteers.

The order comes after Ontario's top medical official recommended more aggressive contact tracing to track community spread of the coronavirus.

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