October 6, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, provided an update on Ontario’s efforts to equip the province’s testing infrastructure for the second wave of COVID-19.
Premier Ford and Minister Elliott were joined by Associate Chef Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, and President and CEO of Ontario Health, Matt Anderson. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott, and Dr. Yaffe responded to questions from media regarding the province’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
Later this afternoon, the government announced an investment of $19.25 million into mental health supports for postsecondary students in 2020-21.
Yesterday evening, Ontario updated its visitor policy for long-term care in areas with higher community spread of COVID-19.
Provincial Update on COVID-19 Testing
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott provided an update on measures announced last week to better equip the province’s testing infrastructure for the second wave of COVID-19 and the coming colder months. Since last week’s announcement, the province’s significant testing backlog has been reduced by 40 per cent. In addition, the province completed a record 42,000 COVID-19 tests yesterday and is well on the way to building the necessary capacity to process 50,000 daily tests by mid-October. In total, over four million COVID-19 tests have now been completed in Ontario.
The government also continues to work on adding more testing locations in order to improve access and reduce wait times. Currently, 77 pharmacies across Ontario are offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for those eligible under provincial guidance. Additional pharmacies will begin offering testing in the coming weeks.
When asked about the province’s decision to shift to an appointment-based testing strategy, Matt Anderson explained that appointment-based testing allows the province to be more deliberate in its testing approach and will reduce the wait time for results once a test is conducted.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Guidance for Thanksgiving
When asked to clarify the rules surrounding social gatherings for Ontarians over Thanksgiving weekend, Premier Ford responded that indoor gatherings must be limited to 10 people, and outdoor gatherings to 25 people. He added that, while he would discourage anyone from attending a large gathering, Ontarians should wear a mask and keep a distance of at least 2 metres if they choose to gather with another household.
Dr. Yaffe clarified that while 10 people are permitted to gather indoors, the government is hoping that Ontarians will limit their Thanksgiving plans to their immediate households. Those living alone will be permitted to join up with another household.
High Positivity Rate in Toronto Neighbourhoods
In response to questions about extremely high COVID-19 positivity rates (more than 10 per cent) in Toronto neighbourhoods with high proportions of low-income residents and people of colour, Premier Ford said that more needs to be done to focus on these areas, including the use of mobile testing units and additional advertising within the affected communities. Dr. Yaffe added that the government continues to work with Toronto Public Health to determine ways of proactively reaching higher risk populations, and urged Toronto Public Health to prioritize case follow up in these communities.
Increased Mental Health Funding for Postsecondary Students
Later this afternoon, the government also announced an investment of $19.25 million into mental health supports for postsecondary students in 2020-21. This funding will strengthen community partnerships and increase the number of mental health workers and programs at colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes.
The $19.25 million investment will be broken down as follows, with the remainder supporting the development of partnerships and greater access to mental health resources:
- $5.16 million for Good2Talk/Allo j’écoute 24/7 mental health helpline service;
- $500,000 for the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Healthexchange hub, which provides resources and access to expertise for the postsecondary sector;
- $4.45 for the Mental Health Worker Grant, annual ongoing support to 45 colleges and universities to offset the costs of hiring front-line, campus-based mental health workers;
- $6 million for the Mental Health Services Grant, annual support to 45 colleges and universities, for the development of programs and services;
- $500,000 for the Indigenous Institutes Mental Health Grant, to support the nine Indigenous Institutes in providing mental health services, staff, and needs assessment;
- $250,000 to Get-A-head, one-time funding to support the launch of a mental health online application.
Updates to Long-Term Care Visitor Policy
Yesterday evening, Ontario updated its visitor policy for long-term care, in order to better protect residents and staff in areas where there is higher community spread of COVID-19.
Effective tomorrow, Wednesday, October 7th, 2020, general visitors will not be permitted in long-term care homes in the public health regions of Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto. Only essential visitors, including up to one caregiver per resident, will be allowed to visit.