October 1, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced a $461 million investment in order to temporarily enhance the wages of personal support workers (PSWs). The wage enhancement is in recognition of the critical role these PSWs have played throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and social services sectors.
Premier Ford and Minister Elliott were joined by Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott, and Dr. Williams responded to questions from media regarding the province’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
Later this afternoon, Ontario revised the COVID-19 screening guidance for schools and child care to help parents determine when it is appropriate for students, children and their families to be tested for COVID-19.
Temporary Wage Increase for PSWs
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott announced a $461 million investment in order to provide a temporary wage increase for Ontario PSWs working in publicly-funded sectors. The wage increase is intended to help the province attract and retain the workforce needed to care for patients, clients, and residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government hopes that the $461 million investment will stabilize Ontario’s PSW workforce and create incentives for more PSWs to remain in the profession.
Effective October 1, 2020, over 147,000 PSWs will receive a temporary wage increase:
- Approximately 38,000 eligible workers in home and community care will receive an additional $3 per hour.
- Approximately 50,000 eligible workers in long-term care will receive an additional $3 per hour.
- Approximately 12,300 eligible workers in public hospitals will receive an additional $2 per hour.
- Approximately 47,000 eligible workers in children, community and social services providing direct support services for the activities of daily living will receive an additional $3 per hour.
Minister Elliott explained that the varied raise amounts across the PSW profession are intended to achieve a level of relative pay equity across PSWs in all publicly-funded workplaces.
The temporary wage enhancement will be reviewed on a regular basis and could extend through March 31, 2021. Premier Ford added that the government is working on increasing pay for PSWs on a permanent basis.
Revised COVID-19 Screening Guidance for Schools and Childcare
Later this afternoon, the Ontario government updated its COVID-19 screening guidance for schools and child care by adding two sets of questions about symptoms, as well as information to help parents make decisions about whether their children should attend school or child care, consult a health care provider, or be tested for COVID-19.
The first set of new questions asks about common symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever or cough. Students and children with any of these symptoms will be advised to stay home, consult with a health care provider, and/or be tested for COVID-19.
The second set of questions asks about symptoms that are commonly associated with other illnesses, such as a runny nose or a headache. Students and children with only one of these symptoms will be advised to stay home for 24 hours, after which they can return to school or child care if their symptoms are improving. Students and children with two or more of these symptoms will be advised to stay home, consult with a health care provider, and/or be tested for COVID-19.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Tightening Public Health Restrictions
When asked what metrics the government would use to determine whether to further tighten public health restrictions, Dr. Williams said that the metrics vary slightly by region (eg. whether a region is rural, remote, or urban), but generally, health officials are observing trends over the length of the virus’ two-week incubation period, as well as the reproductive rate of the virus.
In response to questions about a possible return to stage two, Premier Ford emphasized that the government’s desire is to focus any further restrictions on regions with large numbers of cases, including Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel, as well as specific settings within hotspots which are contributing to spread.
Restaurant Industry Restrictions
While Premier Ford confirmed that there is no further tightening of restrictions planned for the restaurant industry, he applauded the City of Toronto’s decision to reduce the capacity of restaurants to 75 patrons.
When asked about the province’s backlog in processing COVID-19 tests, Minister Elliott confirmed that the government is partnering with universities to increase its testing network. These universities will begin processing COVID-19 tests shortly.