Ontario extended its state of emergency for another four weeks on Tuesday, as Premier Doug Ford pledged to move more resources to the province’s hard-hit long-term care homes.
Ford said the focus of the fight against COVID-19 has shifted to the province’s more than 600 long-term care facilities where more than 1,200 cases of the virus have been reported.
Ontario must move staff, supplies, and funding to address the “wildfire” the illness has become in the homes, he said.
“As long as COVID-19 continues to spread; as long as our seniors and those most vulnerable are at risk, Ontario must remain in the position to take any and all actions necessary to fight this virus,” the premier said.
To that end, Ford said his government would issue a new order deploying more workers to long-term care homes. There are currently 93 outbreaks in such facilities across the province.
The order will also make it mandatory that staff only work at one facility, Ford said — something several health-care worker unions have been requesting for weeks.
Both the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and the Ontario Nurses’ Association have warned that letting workers take jobs in multiple homes would only contribute to the spread of the disease among vulnerable seniors.
Meanwhile, Ford said the province’s schools won’t reopen in early May as planned, promising a more detailed update from the education minister in the coming days.
“That does not mean the year is cancelled,” Ford said.
Non-essential businesses and child-care centres will remain closed for another 28 days until May 12.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party supported the Progressive Conservative government’s bill to extend the state of emergency, but she called for more supports for people in financial need who aren’t eligible for federal income support.
“The fact is, people were hoping the legislation would rescue them from sleepless nights and payments they just can’t afford,” she said. “It doesn’t. If Ontario doesn’t do more to help, some people will go hungry.”
Ontario reported 483 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 43 new deaths. That brings the province to a total of 7,953 cases, including 334 deaths and 3,568 cases that have been resolved.