On May 20, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford urged Ontarians to continue to adhere to public health advice as the province begins the process of reopening. In addition, Premier Ford announced that it is now recommended that Ontarians wear face coverings in settings where physical distancing is a challenge.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media about ongoing plans for reopening and Ontario’s testing strategy.
Ontarians Encouraged to Follow Public Health Advice as Economy Reopens
This afternoon, Premier Doug Ford urged Ontarians to continue to adhere to public health advice as the government begins to gradually reopen the economy. In addition, as more people are expected to be taking public transit, returning to work, or going out shopping, it is now recommended that Ontarians wear face coverings in settings where physical distancing is a challenge.
The Ministry of Health has released the following specific recommendations for Ontarians on how to choose, wear and care for appropriate face coverings:
- The face covering should snugly cover the nose and mouth, without any gaps. It should be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material, and if it is reusable, should be able to be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape.
- Medical masks, including surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, first responders, and people who are ill.
- Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two; anyone who has trouble breathing; or anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.
The Ministry of Health is also recommending that the following measures be put in place to assist provincial transit agencies in protecting transit staff and riders:
- Physical distancing of at least two metres on public transit, by admitting fewer passengers and using physical markers between seats;
- The use of face coverings, particularly when physical distancing is not feasible;
- Ensuring the availability of alcohol-based hand rub open entering and exiting the vehicle;
- Implementing engineering controls like plexiglass windows between drivers and passengers, and;
- Enhanced cleaning, particularly of high-touch surfaces.
- In response to questions about why wearing a face covering is not mandatory, Premier Ford reiterated that face coverings are highly recommended in situations where physical distancing is not possible and the government is acting on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Premier Ford added that any face covering is better than none when asked about Ontarians who may have difficulty finding or affording masks.
Questions from Media – Ongoing Plans for Reopening
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media about ongoing plans for reopening, and Ontario’s testing strategy.
In response to continued criticism about Ontario testing well below its daily capacity, Minister Elliott reassured reporters that the government has a plan to ramp up testing and acknowledged that improved testing is essential in order to be able to proceed to stage two of Ontario’s “restart” phase. Premier Ford added that the government is watching the number of new COVID-19 cases and will not hesitate to roll back reopening measures if there is a spike in new cases.
When asked for clarification on yesterday’s announcement regarding summer day camps, Premier Ford said that while he is optimistic that summer day camps will be able to proceed in July and August, this will be dependent on observing a continued downward trend in case numbers.
Premier Ford also confirmed that there would be a review conducted of congregate settings other than long-term care homes. This process will be separate from the independent commission assessing the impact of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care system, which was announced yesterday.