The government is considering making some hospitals COVID-free by putting coronavirus patients elsewhere, Health Minister Christine Elliott said. This would allow for some elective surgeries to return without infecting those patients.
"I think you're pretty bang-on there," Premier Doug Ford told a reporter who asked about the idea during his daily afternoon news conference, before passing it to Elliott.
Restarting elective surgeries will be dependent on a number of factors, including the supply of protective equipment and staffing levels, as many have gone to help out long-term care homes that have been overwhelmed by COVID-19, Elliott said.
"It is something that we are taking a look at," she said, adding that she hopes to present a plan "very shortly."
Elliott has said cancer and cardiac procedures will take priority when elective surgeries return.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner sent a letter to Elliott urging her to release a plan for resuming elective surgeries.
"A number of my constituents who are suffering from non-COVID-related health conditions have reached out asking when their vital surgeries and procedures will be rescheduled. They support the decision to free up hospital beds for the anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients, but their conditions are declining and many of them are worried and desperate for answers," he wrote.
When can we hug our friends again?
“If I knew the exact date, honestly, I’d be telling you in 10 seconds up here,” Ford said in response to a question about when Ontarians can start having small gatherings again.
We're getting closer — the numbers are headed in the right direction, he said. "Let's continue working hard, all together as a province. And we have been, and those numbers are showing the results of that."
Ford didn't say whether he was considering a "household bubble" situation like New Brunswick has implemented — where families can pair up and socialize with one other household.
"Maybe if you ask me this next week we'll see some even better results than what we've already seen," he said.
In his afternoon presser, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams wouldn't predict any dates for when Ontario would have the pandemic under control. He noted that the past few days have seen positive signs, but that he will need to see that trend continue for longer before more of the province can reopen.
On Monday, there were 370 new cases, a 2.1-per-cent increase from the day before and the lowest number of new cases in weeks. However, the number of deaths continues to rise, reaching 1,300.
Ford said it's "unfair" that garden centres haven't been able to open during a crucial time period for them, while some big-box stores that sell landscaping supplies have been allowed to open, since they also sell food and drugs.
“We’re going to have some good news for these folks this week. So we're going to get moving on that," he said.
Ford also gave a heads up to retailers to start preparing to open in the next few weeks.
"No matter if it's three weeks, four weeks, two weeks, whenever it is — start prepping, getting masks ready. So there’s the warning right now. It's coming," he said.
The premier urged large companies with stockpiles of personal protective equipment to share it with other businesses if they can.
"I'm relying on the retail association and other large retailers. If you have extra, share it. Share it with some of the smaller retailers as well," he said.
Calls to expand pandemic pay bump
Physiotherapists, medical radiation technologists, and diagnostic medical sonographers are asking to be included in Ontario's temporary $4-per-hour pandemic pay increase.
"It is incomprehensible and irresponsible of this government not to recognize the essential healthcare services provided by MRTs and DMSs who continue to risk their lives each day on the frontline in the public interest," said Greg Toffner, the president of the Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Sciences.
The Ontario Physiotherapy Association (OPA) called for the same for its members.
“We work in close contact with COVID-19 patients, often for long periods of time, often with limited access to the appropriate PPE, providing critical care including providing basic care needs, helping patients breathe, managing pain, rehabilitating lost function and regaining independence,” OPA President Paulette Gardiner Millar said.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and Schreiner both called for major financial aid for municipalities.
Del Duca called for a $4-billion support fund, cost-shared with Ottawa.
“Without a significant financial bridge, many communities will be forced to make draconian decisions that will only jeopardize our long-term health and prosperity – we can’t allow that to happen,” he said in a release.
Among other recommendations, Schreiner urged the government to reinstate the previous funding formulae for public health and child care; restore funding for community housing; spend $350 million to cover the operating costs of municipal-run long-term care homes; and create a "multi-billion dollar active transportation fund" for municipalities.
Del Duca and Schreiner both called for doubling municipal gas tax funding and expediting approved infrastructure projects.
Ford said he agrees that cottagers should get their taxes back for this year since they haven't been able to go during the pandemic. He said he's looking to get on a call this week with all the mayors in cottage country.
Social distancing is important, but as the numbers come down the cottage situation will have to be reconsidered, he said, noting that many communities rely on the business of cottagers in the summer months.
“There’s only so long you can hold back taxpayers from going to their cottages,” he said.