News

Ontario Implements Enhanced Measures to Protect the Safety of Residents in Long-Term Care Homes

TORONTO— Ontario is taking further steps to ensure that health sector workers, including those that work in the long-term care sector, are available, where and when they are needed. These enhanced measures will support the province's extensive efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

On March 23, Ontario enacted a new order under the March 17, 2020 declaration of emergency to ensure personnel are properly deployed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to keep staff, volunteers and residents in long-term care homes safe. This temporary order would give long-term care homes the ability to free-up valuable staff, identify staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans.

Under this temporary order long-term care homes will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:

  • Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the health service provider;
  • Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining unit work; and
  • Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, has also issued a new directive for long-term care homes under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 that restricts residents from leaving a home for short visits with family and friends. In doing so, the province is ensuring residents do not inadvertently contract COVID-19 while out of the home and spread the virus upon their return. Instead, residents who want to go outside will be able to remain on the home's property and maintain safe social distancing from any family and friends who visit them.

"Ontario is implementing critical and necessary measures to ensure that we are able to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians, in particular our seniors," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "We have been working for several months now, with all our partners across the system, from public health to hospitals and long-term care operators, to put processes in place to contain this virus and be ready to respond to any scenario."

"The health and well-being of all Ontarians, including long-term care residents, their families, and staff will continue to be our government's number one priority," said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. "Our government is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure our loved ones in Ontario's long-term care homes are safe and secure."

To help maintain the health and safety of residents, staff and essential visitors, Ontario is also increasing long-term care bed availability to ensure homes are able to provide isolation rooms when required, as well as providing long-term beds for people on the long-term care waitlist. In particular, patients in the hospital who no longer require hospital services will benefit from this increased long-term care bed capacity, and their placement into long-term care will also free up hospital beds to treat acute patients.

In addition, Ontario is making necessary adjustments to ensure both resident and families' wishes are taken into account, and a sufficient number of staff are available to support long-term care home residents. Updated procedures will bring further clarity around admitting, discharging, and readmitting long-term care home residents at a time when homes are trying their best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among residents, staff and essential visitors.

Lastly, the province is ensuring sufficient nursing and personal support care staff are available to support long-term care home residents. All new nurses and personal support workers hired to help long-term care homes cope with COVID-19 will be screened to ensure they are qualified and present no risk to long-term care home residents.

These critical steps add to the protocols that have recently been implemented to ensure a safe and secure environment for residents.

Long-term care homes continue to restrict non-essential visits and actively screen essential visitors, staff, students, volunteers, residents moving into a long-term care home and residents returning to a long-term care home.

As of March 9, 2020, when long-term care homes submit samples for standard respiratory testing, they are also being tested for COVID-19 automatically to ensure the province identifies potentially unknown cases.

Quick Facts

  • When utilized by long-term care homes, redeployment plans under the new order temporarily supersede the provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions.
  • As part of the ongoing government effort to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 across the province, the government has provided initial emergency funding to the long-term care home sector of $50 million effective immediately.

Additional Resources

  • Visit Ontario's website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
  • If you are a health care professional, learn how to protect yourself and your patients by reading our guidance documents.

March 24, 2020

Ontario Orders the Mandatory Closure of All Non-Essential Workplaces to Fight Spread of COVID-19

TORONTO — To further contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario Government will order the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces effective as of Tuesday, March 24th at 11:59 p.m. This closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this order as the situation evolves. A full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open will be released tomorrow.

"This was a tough decision, but the right decision, as this is no time for half measures," said Premier Doug Ford. "But I have said from day one we will, and we must, take all steps necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of every Ontarian must come first. The health of you, your children, your grandparents and friends depends on all of us doing our part."

Businesses that can continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other contingency measures, are being given approximately 36 hours to prepare and adapt. Essential services may continue their operations to maintain supply chains and ensure the people of Ontario have access to necessities, including groceries, medicines and other essential products.

A 1-800 number and website will be made available on Wednesday for any inquiries.

"Based on the advice of Dr. Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, and the experts at our Command Table, Ontario is taking further action to contain the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "These enhanced measures are necessary to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians. Nothing is more important."

"Our top priority must be to protect the health of the people of Ontario," said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. "Slowing the spread of COVID-19 will allow the people and the businesses of Ontario to move forward from this unprecedented situation."

"Our government is listening to our public health officials to ensure we take the right actions to support the health and safety of Ontario job creators and workers," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "We are working directly with businesses and workers across all sectors to support them in any way possible through this crisis. We urge the business community to share their innovative ideas and capabilities to fight COVID-19 through our new portal Ontario Together at www.ontario.ca/OntarioTogether."

Additional Resources

  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

March 23, 2020

Ontario Protecting the Most Vulnerable During COVID-19 Crisis

TORONTO — The Ontario government is providing $200 million in social services relief funding to help protect the health and safety of the province's most vulnerable people in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The province will be providing municipalities and organizations that administer social services with funding to support them in their response to COVID-19. The funding will help municipalities and social service providers such as shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy. Ontario's municipal service managers will determine local needs and distribute the funding, ensuring clients are receiving the support they need.

 "Our government will spare no expense to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians," said Premier Doug Ford. "We are doing our part to show the Ontario spirit and we will make sure no one gets left behind. Organizations across the province are doing critical work right now to help vulnerable Ontarians and these funds will allow them to directly help those who need it most." 

The funding will also help individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs. The government is putting in place an expanded Emergency Assistance program administered through Ontario Works (OW) to cover these individuals' needs such as food, rent, informal childcare, and services. There will also be discretionary benefits available to those who already receive social assistance.

This new funding will help individuals and families in financial crisis who are not able to access federal assistance to cover needs such as food, rent, medicine, transportation and other services during this public health crisis. Funding will also be made available to organizations delivering social services to vulnerable First Nations individuals and families. Individuals can apply online at Ontario.ca/community.

"Protecting our most vulnerable is an absolute priority, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop," said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. "We're expanding access to temporary emergency assistance so that individuals who have no other means of financial support can stay safe and healthy."

This fund will also help local communities support their shelter systems during this health crisis. The province's 47 municipal service managers will deliver this funding, ensuring clients are receiving the support they need, and will make local decisions on community funding.

"We are acting quickly to support those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless during this unprecedented time," said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. "This funding will go straight to communities, who know best what the immediate needs are on the ground in their local shelters."

"This new funding will provide much needed support to our province's most vulnerable as we continue to take decisive action to contain the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "If Ontario is going to successfully flatten the curve, it's vital that we ensure that all Ontarians have the resources they need to protect their health and well-being."

Quick Facts

  • Last week, Ontario announced a $304 million investment in COVID-19 response, including $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth.
  • To further bolster safety measures for social-assistance clients and caseworkers, the government has also temporarily removed the requirement for clients to provide written documentation at this time. Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments will be made as usual and will continue based on previous levels of income support. Individuals will not have to visit their local office to provide written documentation during this time. If individuals need to connect with their caseworker, they are encouraged to connect over the phone instead of visiting in person.

Background Information

Additional Resources

March 23, 2020

Ontario Significantly Enhancing COVID-19 Screening Measures and Supports

TORONTO — With the increasing severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario has now launched an enhanced and interactive self-assessment tool. This new easy-to-use tool takes the public through a series of questions to inform those who are concerned they may have contracted COVID-19. In a matter of seconds, this tool will help people determine if they are negative or it will provide them with guidance on where to seek care based on their needs. Critically, the enhanced tool provides the province with real-time data on the number and geography of users who are told to seek care, self-isolate or to monitor for symptoms. This data will help inform Ontario's ongoing response in order to keep individuals and families safe.

"I encourage anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms or may have travelled outside of Canada to first self-isolate and then take a few seconds to complete our new online assessment tool," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "This easy-to-use tool, developed with guidance from Dr. Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, is a great first step in that process. By answering a few questions, Ontarians will be able to make informed choices about what to do, while the province collects real-time data to enhance our ongoing response."

The tool guides individuals through a series of questions and, based on their responses, users are provided clear direction on what action to take. These next steps could include: continue to practice social distancing; self-isolate; call a primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario; or in the case of symptoms such as severe difficulty breathing or severe chest pain, call 911 or go to the emergency department.

Those people whose self-assessment shows they may have COVID-19 will be advised to call their primary care provider, who can conduct a virtual assessment by phone or other technology. People can also call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 (24/7), where they can speak to a health care professional about their symptoms. As announced last week, the province is rapidly expanding service capacity to ensure timely responses and has increased Telehealth's line capacity to more than 2,000 to help manage the high daily call volume.

In some cases, based on the virtual assessment, individuals may be referred by their primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario to one of the province's 58 assessment centres for an in-person assessment. These centres, which are by referral only, are helping to ease the pressures on hospital emergency departments using innovative care models, including in some cases drive-thru testing.

As part of the investment of up to $304 million to enhance the province's response to COVID-19, Ontario will be establishing additional assessment centres across the province. The centres are located in dedicated spaces, which will facilitate high-quality care to protect broader patient populations. The 58 centres that have already opened are in several municipalities across the province. 

Visit Ontario's website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Quick Facts

  • Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada should:
    • Self-isolate for 14 days when they return. People who are self-isolating should not go to work.
    • Monitor themselves for symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus for 14 days after returning to Canada.
    • Contact their primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 if they experience symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
  • To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, wash your hands often, cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue, and stay home if you are feeling sick.

Additional Resources

March 23, 2020

Closure of Drive Test Centres In Response to COVID-19

TORONTO - Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation issued the following statement today regarding the status of Drive Test Centres and Travel Point locations:

"Based on the advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, all full-time DriveTest Centres and part-time Travel Point locations will be closed. The closures will take effect March 23, 2020 until further notice.

The decision to close was the result of a mutual agreement between the government and service provider.

Ontarians can rest assured they will not lose their current driver's licences due to this decision and no driver's licence applicants will lose test fees as a result of the closures. The current "Fail to Keep Appointment" penalty fee will also be waived.

We have a responsibility to Ontarians to ensure that we take every possible step to enable social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Additional Resources

March 22, 2020

Province Takes Steps to Ensure Frontline Staff Can Continue to Work

TORONTO — In order to support health care and frontline workers during this COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario plans to exempt certain child care centres from the order to close all licensed child care centres pursuant to the state of emergency declared earlier this week. This initiative is being done in partnership with service system managers and First Nations partners.

"We need to help our nurses, doctors and frontline care workers to be able to focus on protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "By allowing select child care centres to open their doors during these challenging times, our province's courageous frontline workers can rest assured knowing that their families are also being looked after."

Health care and other frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police, and correctional officers, will be able to access safe, local emergency child care. These child care centres will be required to follow existing health and safety requirements and have a plan in place should any staff, children or parents be exposed to the virus.

"During this unprecedented situation, we need to do everything we can to ensure our health care and other frontline staff have the support they need to continue to work," said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. "At the same time, we need to protect the safety of the staff and children at these centres. For that reason, we are putting strict measures in place, such as restricting the types of centres that can re-open and keeping the number of children in any one centre low." 

Once emergency child care centres open, a list of locations will be made available on ontario.ca/coronavirus.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario schools will be closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020 in an effort to keep Ontario’s students safe from COVID-19.
  • On Friday March 20, Ontario launched the first phase of Learn at Home and Apprendre à la maison, a new online portal that will provide resources for families so students can continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Additional Resources

March 22, 2020

Ontario Takes Extraordinary Steps to Ensure Health Care Resources are Available to Contain COVID-19

TORONTO — Today, the Ontario government announced a new order under the March 17, 2020 declaration of emergency to ensure health care resources are available to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep individuals and families safe. This temporary order would give hospitals the ability to cancel and postpone services to free-up space and valuable staff, identify staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans.

"On the best advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, and in response to clear and urgent requests from our frontline health service providers, the province is taking decisive action to ensure we can continue to be responsive and nimble as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grows," said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General. "While normal protocols are important in routine times, these extraordinary steps will ensure our health sector workers are there, where and when they are needed, to care for Ontarians and support our extensive efforts to contain this virus."

Under this temporary order hospitals will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:

 

  • Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the hospital;
  • Redeploying staff to work in COVID-19 assessment centres;
  • Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining work; and
  • Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

 

When utilized by hospitals, these redeployment plans temporarily supersede the provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions. For example, currently a hospital would be required to post a lay-off notice and wait a period of time before being able to move a nurse or other unionized employee from an emergency department to a COVID-19 assessment centre. These measures would allow for the redeployment of staff to address the containment of COVID-19 without restriction or delay.

"I want to once again thank our nurses, doctors and frontline care workers for their extraordinary dedication and commitment as we continue to work together to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "These temporary measures are necessary to ensure hospitals are able to effectively deploy personnel to where help and support is needed most in their facilities."

This time-limited order is valid for 14 days unless revoked or renewed in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Quick Facts

  • Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • If you are returning from travel outside of Canada or if you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, you should begin to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, including social distancing and tracking your symptoms and how you feel.

Additional Resources

March 21, 2020

Ontario Urges Business to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

TORONTO — The Ontario Government is launching Ontario Together, a new website that will help businesses and their employees work with the province to meet the challenges of COVID-19. This initiative will remove barriers allowing Ontario's manufacturing sector to redeploy capacity towards the production of essential equipment like ventilators, masks and swabs.

Today's announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford and Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance and Flavio Volpe, President, Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA).  

"We're ready to mobilize our manufacturing might to help the entire country and we want Ontario to become the workshop of Canada," said Premier Ford. "Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts and we are already seeing people stepping up and offering to help out as we deal with this unprecedented situation. This is a true demonstration of Ontario Spirit."

Ontario Together will identify the province's supply challenges and solicit ideas and advice from Ontario's business and manufacturing communities on how the government can work together to meet the need. Through the portal, companies will be able to submit proposals for the government to procure required goods and services and share creative solutions quickly.

"We're looking forward to leveraging Ontario's world class manufacturing and IT sectors to provide the necessary assistance to combat COVID-19," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "Ontario's businesses have shown they are ready and willing to work with us, and we urge them to join our government in finding made-in-Ontario solutions to ensure we continue to stay well supplied."

"Ontario is home to some of the world's best hospitals led by dedicated professionals who are working around-the-clock to identify, diagnose and treat our population to manage and slow the spread of COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "If we are going to stop the spread of this virus, we will need a steady stream of medical products and supplies to treat patients and keep frontline workers safe and healthy."

Through the Ontario Together website, the government will be partnering with some of the most innovative people across Canada and around the world, in order to redirect resources and explore new ways of doing business creatively and efficiently.

"Responding to COVID-19 is requiring all of us to think outside of the box and move quickly," said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. "By relying on status-quo procurement tools and techniques we will be unable to keep up with this rapidly evolving situation. Ontario Together will help us overcome the unique challenges we are facing today."

Additional Resources

Quotes

“How firmly this government responded to the crisis of our times will be the only measure that will matter when Ontario is successful in its defence of public health.”

Flavio Volpe

President, Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA)

“Manufacturing is a key part of our economy and a critical infrastructure. More than ever, our sector and supply chains need support to address the challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis. We greatly appreciate the government for taking the initiative to launch a procurement tool that will remove barriers and help Ontario manufacturers and their employees continue to play an essential role in solving this crisis.”

Dennis Darby

President and CEO, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME)

“Our members are working hard to develop tests, treatments, vaccines and many other products to combat COVID-19. This portal will help facilitate partnerships between the private and public sectors as we respond to the current health crisis. LSO applauds the provincial government's leadership at this critical time.”

Dr. Jason Field

President and CEO, Life Sciences Ontario (LSO)

“A smart way to help Ontario’s economy in these challenging times is by procuring products and services from our innovative small and medium sized businesses and technology scale-ups that can directly reduce the spread of COVID-19. We welcome the government’s efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ by engaging domestic innovators, and we encourage all companies in the health, fintech, remote work and education delivery sectors to support this initiative and apply today.”

Benjamin Bergen

Executive Director, Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI)

March 21, 2020

Ontario Expands Coverage for Care

TORONTO — As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve globally and locally, Ontario is taking decisive and swift action to ensure the province continues to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians.

To ensure that anyone in need of care can receive it, Ontario is waiving the three-month waiting period for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage. Additionally, the province will cover the cost of COVID-19 services for uninsured people who do not meet the criteria for OHIP coverage. Together, these measures will ensure that no one will be discouraged from seeking screening or treatment for COVID-19 for financial reasons.

"The health and well-being of Ontarians continues to be our government's number one priority," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "That's why we're working to guarantee that anyone who needs screening or care for COVID-19 will get it. In doing so, we can further help ensure we contain the spread of this virus."

These measures are in addition to Ontario's recent announcement that Ontarians with expiring and expired health cards will continue to have access to insured health services.

Ontario is continuing to work with all partners across the system, from public health to hospitals and community care, to do everything we can to contain COVID-19 and ensure that the system is prepared to respond to any scenario.

Visit Ontario's website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Quick Facts

  • Ontarians should be practising social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
  • If you are returning from travel outside of Canada or if you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, you should begin to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, including social distancing and tracking your symptoms and how you feel.

Additional Resources

March 20, 2020

Ontario Stepping Up Measures to Limit the Spread of COVID-19 in Correctional System

TORONTO — Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, issued the following statement regarding regulatory changes to temporary absences and parole at Ontario's adult correctional facilities as a further precautionary response to COVID-19:

"As Ontario continues to act to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are making further changes to protect our frontline workers and our health care system from the burden an outbreak in our correctional system could cause.

On March 13, we announced measures to protect Ontario's adult correctional facilities from COVID-19 by granting intermittent inmates, who serve time on the weekends, temporary absences from custody, and temporarily halting personal visits. Intermittent inmates have already been deemed low-risk by the courts and remain in the community Monday to Friday to live and work.

Building on these changes, Ontario is implementing amendments to Regulation 778 under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act to allow senior corrections officials to expand the use of temporary absences and for the Ontario Parole Board to use alternatives to in-person meetings.

Going forward, correctional services will have the option to issue temporary absences beyond the current 72-hour maximum. This means those serving intermittent sentences, who have been granted a temporary absence will not have to report to a correctional facility every weekend, which will avoid cycling individuals back and forth between the community and a correctional facility. 

In addition, the longer-term temporary absences will allow for early release of those inmates who are near the end of their sentence. To ensure public safety, inmates would be carefully assessed to ensure they are a low risk to reoffend. Those inmates who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as violent crimes or crimes involving guns, would not be considered for early release.

A second regulatory amendment will allow the Ontario Parole Board to conduct hearings by electronic or written means, rather than solely in-person, providing alternate options for hearings.

We continue to evaluate all options to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 within our correctional system. These regulatory amendments will help us preserve the integrity of our health care system, protect our frontline workers and help keep our communities safe."

March 20, 2020