November 26, 2020
Today, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced $13.6 million in additional funding for school boards in regions recently moved to the Red-Control level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. This funding may be used to hire additional teachers and staff, as well as to secure additional online learning supports.
Premier Ford and Minister Lecce also announced the launch of targeted voluntary testing of asymptomatic students and staff in regions of the province with a high number of active COVID-19 cases, including Ottawa, Peel, Toronto, and York.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Lecce responded to questions from media regarding the ongoing response to COVID-19.
Earlier today, the government announced the introduction of the Supporting Local Restaurants Act, 2020. If passed, this legislation would cap fees charged by food delivery companies in areas where indoor dining is prohibited.
The cancellation of road tests for regions in lockdown was also announced today. Cancellations are effective as of Monday, November 23, (the date Toronto and Peel region entered lockdown). Effective Monday, November 30, DriveTest has also been directed to restrict residents of Toronto and Peel region from re-booking road tests in another region at a lower COVID-19 level.
Later this afternoon, Ontario released updated COVID-19 modelling, which indicates that while key indicators of the pandemic are flattening in some regions, the province remains in a “fragile” situation. It is too early to determine whether cases are beginning to decrease.
Additional Funding and Targeted Voluntary Testing for Schools in COVID-19 Hotspots
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Lecce announced an allocation of $13.6 million for school boards in regions that have recently moved to the Red-Control level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. This funding will enable schools board in the regions of Durham, Halton, Hamilton, and Waterloo to hire additional teachers or custodians, or to purchase additional technological devices to support students in online learning.
In addition, Ontario has launched targeted voluntary testing of asymptomatic students and staff in regions of the province with a high number of active COVID-19 cases, including Ottawa, Peel, Toronto, and York. The intent of voluntary asymptomatic testing is to simplify the process of tracking and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and to inform public health decisions on outbreak management. This initiative began this week, and will continue over a four-week period.
Minister Lecce also announced that the government is providing funding stabilization for school boards across Ontario to help alleviate the impacts of enrolment declines which occurred as a result of COVID-19.
Other supports for Ontario students announced today include the launch of two new interactive learning portals developed in partnership with TVO and TFO, as well as a health and safety refresher on COVID-19 protocols for students upon their return to school in January 2021.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Premier Ford voiced his support for business owners in response to questions about the closure of salons in regions in lockdown. He added that the government will review COVID-19 trends after Toronto and Peel region have spent two weeks in lockdown, to determine whether restrictions requiring certain businesses to close can be loosened.
Canadian Procurement of COVID-19 Vaccine
When asked for comment on the federal government’s ongoing efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines, Premier Ford said that in order to plan, Ontario needs to know a timeline for receiving its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, as well as how many and which type of vaccine these will be. He added that when speaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later today, he will be looking for “answers and a decisive plan” from the federal government.
Legislation to Cap Fees for Food Delivery Companies
Earlier today, the government announced the introduction of the Supporting Local Restaurants Act, 2020. This legislation proposes capping delivery fees for food delivery service apps to 15%, with an overall cap of 20%, inclusive of all fees. Caps would apply only in regions where indoor dining is prohibited. The legislation would also protect the compensation of food service delivery contractors or employees from being affected by proposed fee caps.
Fines of up to $10 million would be permitted for companies that fail to comply.
Updated COVID-19 Modelling
Later this afternoon, Ontario released updated COVID-19 modelling, presented by Dr. Steini Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
According to Dr. Brown, the updated modelling suggests that key indicators of the pandemic are flattening in some regions, although the impact of the pandemic varies widely across the province. Dr. Brown called the situation “fragile,” adding that we may see a flattening of the second wave curve, but we “haven’t turned the corner yet.”
Other key observations from today’s modelling update are as follows:
- Long-term care home resident mortality continues to increase.
- Hospitalization due to COVID-19 has increased by 63.2% over the last four weeks.
- Intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy is expected to hit 200 beds in December, creating capacity challenges for hospitals. This may lead to a situation where hospitals must decide to cancel or postpone surgeries and other scheduled procedures.
- Some communities face a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to structural factors. Rather than treating COVID-19 as a single pandemic, Dr. Brown referred to the virus as “a series of micro-epidemics requiring different responses in different regions.”