Ontario announced 54 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest number since mid-March, and no new deaths.
Ontario is reporting 33 cases of #COVID19, a 0.1% increase. This includes routine data clean-up by Toronto Public Health, which removed 21 cases, such as duplicates, that had previously been included in daily case counts. Yesterday, the province processed over 21,500 tests.
— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) August 11, 2020
According to the Minister of Health, the number of total cases in the province rose by just 33, to 40,194 — because Toronto Public Health eliminated 21 cases from its records, which had been counted in previous daily updates, during a data cleanup process that removed duplicates.
While day-to-day numbers fluctuate, the province remains on a downward trend, with the average number of cases below 100 over the past two weeks.
Long-term care accelerated build pilot project
Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford announced another long-term care home will be built under the Accelerated Build Pilot Project, which sees new care homes build on hospital-owned land on quick timelines.
The project will be built by Humber River Hospital and Infrastructure Ontario on land owned by the hospital in Toronto and will include 320 new long-term care beds, which should be available by the end of next year. The Ford government previously announced two other accelerated projects, in Mississauga and Ajax.
In the words of Toronto Major John Tory, who was on hand for the announcement, the project will be built at "wartime speed" thanks to modular construction, an accelerated procurement process and the use of land already owned by the hospital.
According to a spokesperson for the Minister of Long-Term Care, Humber River Hospital will own the physical asset, but has "indicated that the long-term care home will be operated by a non-profit entity."
"The other pilot projects announced, in Mississauga and Ajax, will be developed and operated by Trillium Health Partners & Lakeridge Health respectively," said the spokesperson, Gillian Sloggett, in an email.
The budget for the projects is also unclear — Sloggett didn't indicate how much the government intends to spend, saying only a "projection of more accurate costs will come as a result of the competitive procurement process."
(This story was updated after publication to add the comments from the spokesperson for the Minister of Long-Term Care.)
Money isn't the issue on class sizes, premier says.
Amid continued pressure to lower class sizes for kids returning to school in the fall, Ford opened the possibility of providing some additional funding to allow boards to hire more teachers, to lower class sizes.
At his daily press conference, he was asked several questions about class size and, in answer to one, he said the province has put $30 million into a fund school boards can access to hire more teachers.
"And if they need more than $30 million, we'll put more than $30 million in," he said. "But, money is not the issue, it's safety, in my opinion, is the issue."
It comes as an online petition that calls the Ford government's back-to-school plan "shameful" and "reckless" and calls for smaller class sizes, reached over 200,000 signatures.
Ford said, again, that he understands that parents are anxious because he is too.
"I don't sleep at night, thinking," he said. "I called the minister [of education Stephen Lecce] the other day four times. You know, I'm onto him like an 800-pound gorilla and he's only a little guy, so he knows we're all over it. But in saying that, we have the best plan in the country, bar none."
Ford has likened himself to an 800-pound gorilla before, including when talking about putting pressure on provincial officials to increase Ontario's COVID-19 testing and in putting diplomatic pressure on U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Ford was also asked if the province has a plan to mitigate the risk that could come from supply teachers moving from school to school, but didn't have an answer.
Ford was also asked about the evacuation of Red Lake, which is being threatened by a forest fire.
"Our number one priority is to make sure we evacuated the 4,100 people, like, immediately," said Ford. "And it's all hands on deck up there. So the folks in Red Lake, we're there for you, we're going to support you. And we're going to make sure that you have safe shelter and we'll support you after this as well. Any homes get damaged, anything along those lines, we have our emergency team all over this."
The province is giving $2 million to the Canadian Red Cross International Disaster Relief Program to aid in their work in the recovery from the explosion of Aug. 4, billing it as "one of the largest contributions the Ontario government has ever made towards an international humanitarian relief effort."
My heart breaks for the victims and families affected by the terrible tragedy in Beirut. On behalf of our government we stand with Ontario’s Lebanese community and the people of Lebanon. We’re providing the @redcrosscanada with $2M to assist communities. https://t.co/amEK8y48wz
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) August 11, 2020
Lastly, Ford was asked if he is planning to take any time off to recharge — but he says that's not in the cards.
"I just can't take my eye off the ball, I just can't," he said. "I gotta be here every single day, I'm not gonna miss a day. And I promise, God willing, and my health willing. We're gonna keep going at it. And I just can't do it, I can't take any time off. I’ll take time off next year when we're through this."