COVID-19: What you need to know for March 23 — morning edition

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Mar 23, 2020

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This article was last updated at 1:43 p.m.

TVO.org reporters and editors are tracking stories about the coronavirus pandemic in all regions of the province. Here's what Ontarians need to know. 

Provincewide

  • Premier Doug Ford announced at a press conference on Monday afternoon that the Ontario government will be forcing all non-essential businesses to close, effective Tuesday and extending for 14 days. A list of essential and non-essential businesses will be released tomorrow.

  • The premier also confirmed that the government does not expect students to return to school on April 6, as previously announced. The government has not provided an alternative date for when students will return. A spokesperson for minister of education Stephen Lecce wrote in an email: "We are currently seeking the advice of Dr. Williams on how long the closure of publicly funded schools should continue. The Minister has been clear, our government will take immediate action to ensure the safety of students and staff, and is preparing for all scenarios."

  • At a press conference Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $192 million fund to help develop a vaccine. 

  • Ontario has 78 new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, according to this morning's update from Public Health Ontario. Approximately 2,000 new patients were approved for tests in the last 24 hours. The province's chief medical officer of health has said the government is ramping up to an eventual capacity of 5,000 tests per day — but more than 8,400 tests are currently marked as "under investigation," meaning the results are still pending. 

  • The provincial government has updated its online self-assessment tool and is asking anyone who feels any symptoms of COVID-19 to use the website first. The website will also collect geographical data on responses so that the government will know how many people in which locations are being advised to seek further guidance from Telehealth or to go to a self-assessment centre.

  • The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has released a communication guide for municipal councils: "Good communication keeps people safe and healthy, it keeps your municipality functioning well, and it keeps your community calm and confident in your abilities."

  • Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a letter to Ontario parents on Sunday night, acknowledging that the government is planning for closure of all schools — currently scheduled to end on April 6 — to be extended further on the advice of David Williams, the chief medical officer of health. Lecce also says that Grade 12 students will still be able to apply to colleges and universities. Yesterday, the province of Quebec extended its school closure until May 1.

  • The Ontario government announced on Sunday night that all drive-test centres across the province would close effective this morning. Anyone who had a scheduled driving test will have the cancellation fee waived, and, as previously announced, no current drivers licences will expire during the state of emergency.
  • Canada has become the first country to annouce that it will not be sending athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Games. The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee are urging a one-year postponement. 
  • The Ontario Arts Council has told artists and arts organizations that it will "not ask for repayment of grants for which related expenses have been incurred and will keep disbursing grant payments even in cases of altered events and plans." 

  • The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that more than 500,000 low-income renters in Ontario have less than one month's income in savings and is calling on the federal government to make more money available faster to low-income households. The CCPA also suggests that provincial governments waive rents for publicly owned housing and compensate municipalities for any losses.

Greater Toronto Area

  • Brampton city councillor Charmaine Williams is calling on the government of Ontario to immediately eliminate the legal and regulatory barriers that keep foreign-trained doctors from being able to practise medicine in this province. The More Doctors Now campaign estimates there are 7,000 Ontarians with foreign medical credentials who are currently barred from practicing here.

  • The Scarborough courthouse will be closed Monday, as an employee of the Ministry of the Attorney General is displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The employee has not been to work since March 11. The courthouse has undergone enhanced cleaning, but no date has been given for its reopening.

Indigenous

Northern

  • Kirkland Lake Gold has suspended non-essential work at all operations until April 30. Affected workers will be given two weeks' paid leave.

  • The Porcupine Health Unit on Sunday was notified of more positive COVID-19 cases in the Timmins area. The health unit’s Facebook page states that it is “currently conducting a thorough investigation and will be following up with close contacts.”

Eastern

Southwestern

  • As of Monday morning, Waterloo Region had 32 cases of COVID-19, 15 of which are presumptive, eight of which are in hospital, and 10 of which have been attributed to community spread.

  • An Elgin County man in his thirties is the first to test positive in the Elgin, St. Thomas, and Oxford region. According to a news release today from Southwestern Public Health, the man was "assessed, tested and released by London Heath Sciences Centre" and is now at home in self-isolation.

  • A man in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region who is in his sixties and a man in his forties in Waterloo are among the latest in southwestern Ontario to have tested positive for COVID-19.

  • A Chatham man who tested positive for COVID-19 worked at the South West Detention Centre days before moving into self-isolation. A Ministry of the Solicitor General spokesperson said that correctional facilities are inspected and cleaned daily or as required

  • The Ontario Nurses' Association says more than 50 workers were exposed to COVID-19 while caring for a patient at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener. Some have since become sick. “Registered nurses were exposed while caring for a patient who presented at the emergency department and was screened for influenza, but not COVID-19,” ONA President Vicki McKenna said in a Saturday news release. The association wants the hospital to expedite testing on all of those exposed. "We just cannot afford to lose nurses now,” McKenna said.

  • Windsor and Essex County are appealing to businesses to share any supplies that might help front-line workers. The municipalities, on behalf of area health providers, are asking businesses that might have supplies such as masks, goggles, gloves and hand sanitizer to contact the city.

  • Gary McNamara, Essex County warden, declared a state of emergency for Ontario's southernmost county on Sunday to help facilitate a coordinated response to COVID-19.

  • On Saturday, Waterloo Region and its municipal members announced the formation of a community-support control group. The group is introducing a fully staffed isolation space and drop-in spaces that will be open during the day for the homeless — and plans to open public washrooms and other spaces in urban cores. The group is also planning to deliver food hampers and meals to low-income residents who can't leave their homes.
  • A Kitchener company is now making eye and face shields for front-line health and hospital workers using 3-D printers. The shields use an open-source design from the Czech Republic but have yet to be certified by Canadian health authorities. 

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