On April 14, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that the government is launching an enhanced action plan to fight COVID-19 in the long-term sector. In addition to the plan, which will be released tomorrow, the government is issuing an emergency order later today which will prevent long-term care employees from working in more than one setting. Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
There was also a special sitting of the Ontario legislature this afternoon in order to pass Bill 189, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act and extend Ontario’s state of emergency until May 12, 2020.
Enhanced Action Plan to Combat COVID-19 in the Long-Term Care Sector
This afternoon, Premier Ford acknowledged that positive cases of COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in the long-term care (LTC) sector and announced that the government is releasing an enhanced plan tomorrow, April 15th, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in LTC homes.
The enhanced plan for LTC will prioritize getting additional resources to the LTC sector by redeploying hospital-based care teams to LTC homes that are fighting outbreaks of COVID-19. Specialized care teams will be deployed in the event of serious outbreaks. Premier Ford added that thanks to the collective physical distancing efforts of Ontarians, hospitals have not yet seen the predicted surge in COVID-19 cases and therefore have available resources to assist with response efforts in LTC settings. Thousands of applications have also been received through Ontario’s Health Workforce Matching Portal and potential employees with the necessary skills and knowledge are in the process of being matched with LTC homes to further expand the workforce.
Premier Ford also announced that the Ontario government will issue a new emergency order tonight which will prevent LTC employees from working in more than one setting at a time in order to better prevent the spread of COVID-19 across LTC facilities. The government will immediately provide direct funding to cover the cost of additional staffing for homes as well as the cost of increasing hours for part time staff. The government is also prepared to direct additional funding to the sector, if necessary.
Premier Ford added that expanding testing within the LTC sector remains a top priority. New infection control measures are also immediately being put in place for all high-risk LTC homes.
Ontario Extends Declaration of Emergency
Earlier today, a special sitting of the Ontario legislature was held in order to extend Ontario’s Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act for an additional 28 days, until May 12, 2020.
The legislature also passed Bill 189, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act which amends the Education Act, Planning Act, Development Charges Act, Police Services Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.
Amendments under Bill 189 include:
- Allowing school boards to continue receiving fees on new construction in order to retain this source of revenue;
- Suspending student loan payments for Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) borrowers and initiating a six-month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans;
- Suspending certain municipal planning decision timelines and extending the timeline for municipalities to prepare and adopt community safety and well-being plans, and;
- Ensuring municipalities can continue to count on vital sources of revenue to pay for local growth-related infrastructure.
Premier Ford also confirmed that as a result of extending the Declaration of Emergency in Ontario, schools will not be returning on the previously scheduled date of May 4th. Premier Ford emphasized that this does not necessarily mean that the school year will be lost. Minister of Education Stephen Lecce will provide an update on schools in the coming days.