Ontario announced 114 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and one additional death, as the province's case numbers climbed from a low achieved in early August.
The impact of COVID-19 on children is top of mind for many people, as schools will be reopening later this month and the Ford government is under fire over its reopening plans.
At his daily press conference, Premier Doug Ford said the first question he asks every morning when new figures are available is how many children contracted the virus.
"I listen to the parents, I understand they're very anxious, I'm anxious," he said.
Among Monday's new cases were 21 people below the age of 20 — and that's a figure that has remained fairly consistent throughout the pandemic so far.
For comparison's sake, here is the same chart showing only the new daily cases in the under-20 age group. There has been only one death in that age group and provincial officials said at the time the child had died with COVID-19, but not because of it.
Ford was asked Monday about the possibility that classes will be "collapsed" or combined, where two different classes of children would end up in the same classroom for in-class learning. The reporter pointed to some suggestions of that on social media.
Doug turns this:
👦🏽 👦🏻 🧒🏿 👧🏾 👦🏽 👧🏼
👦🏼 👦🏽 🧒🏾 🧒🏻 👦🏿 👧🏽
👦🏽 👦🏻 🧒🏿 🧑🏻🦰 👦🏽 👧🏼
👦🏼 👩🏻 🧒🏾 🧒🏻 👩🏿🦱 👧🏽
👦🏼👦🏽 👧🏻👦🏿 pic.twitter.com/hNG9yB3v4g
— Ontario Parent Action Network (@parentaction4ed) August 31, 2020
Ford responded that the province has given school boards the flexibility to make their own decisions — but he hasn't heard of that happening.
"Don't believe everything you hear online and on Twitter and all the rest of the nonsense," he said. "Believe what you hear at the press conferences, believe what you hear in the message [from] the minister or government officials."
That message didn't go over so well with one prominent reporter.
Question everything, I say.
Never forget that behind what you see on Twitter and hear at the Premier's press conference is an army of spin doctors who often outnumber the media.
— Colin D'Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) August 31, 2020
Another call for CMOH's resignation
A respected health-care leader has joined the chorus of calls for the resignation of Ontario's chief medical officer of health.
Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, is calling for Dr. David Williams to apologize and resign.
Grinspun said she has had concerns about Williams for some time, which she has shared with the premier and minister of health. But the straw that broke the camels back, she said, were comments he made about health-care workers last week.
At his Thursday press conference, QP Briefing had asked Williams about the risk teachers will be facing when schools reopen. In part of his reply, he said that public health investigations often find that when health-care workers contract COVID-19, they contracted it in the community. He then offered examples of people becoming "casual" in their personal life, by not wearing a mask, socially distancing, or travelling to areas with higher rates of the virus.
Grinspun said the response made her "furious" because health-care workers lost their lives — 10, so far eight of them personal support workers in the long-term care system — and thousands of others have become ill.
She said the evidence shows Williams' assertion is "absurd," particularly when the it shows health-care workers have acquired COVID-19 at a rate at least three to six times higher than the general population. She also noted the families of some of the personal support workers who died told the media that their loved one didn't have access to proper personal protective equipment at work — and Grinspun lays the blame for the lack of PPE in the long-term care system early in the pandemic at Williams' feet.
She cited a litany of mistakes the province made with the long-term care sector — including not having universal masking in long-term care and failing to do surveillance testing early in the pandemic — as reasons more than 1,800 residents died and Williams should resign.
Grinspun went on to criticize his "wishy-washy" guidance on the reopening of schools and questioned why he had the "gall" to blame health-care workers for contracting COVID-19 when he had been asked about the safety of teachers.
"Is this because now he wants to say if a teacher contracts a virus, it's their fault too?" she said. "It's very upsetting — very, very, very upsetting and inappropriate and not characteristic of a person that should be playing a leadership role. It's the opposite of a person that should be playing a leadership role, blaming those that gave their life, or contracted the disease and put their families and themselves at risk. Not fit for the job."
Grinspun is not the first person to call for Williams' to be replaced, her comments follow similar from other experts, including prominent epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman, who said the same to QP Briefing in April.
"We don't have time for it anymore," Grinspun said. "The next wave of the outbreak will likely be more serious because it will be side-by-side with influenza."
QP Briefing attempted to ask Williams for his response to Grinspun's concerns at his Thursday press conference but wasn't selected to ask a question. In response to written questions, a spokesperson for the Health Minister pointed to a publicly-available report from Public Health Ontario that found 44.5 per cent of cases of COVID-19 in health-care workers were not associated with an outbreak at a health-care facility.
"This is aligned with the analysis provided by Dr. Williams," said Alexandra Hilkene.
Halloween and Christmas
Meanwhile, Williams was asked at his daily briefing on Monday what his advice will be concerning allowing kids to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Williams said the province's public health measures table is considering that very question and the issue of how to safely celebrate Christmas too.