'I'd send you to the MRI to get your brain scanned': Your Ontario COVID-19 roundup

‘I’d send you to the MRI to get your brain scanned’: Your Ontario COVID-19 roundup

Ontario will unveil part of its fall COVID-19 preparedness plan tomorrow — the first day of fall.

Health Minister and deputy premier Christine Elliott has been saying for a week that the plan would be coming imminently and opposition politicians have become increasingly vocal about the delay.

In the meantime, cases have been continuing to increase in Ontario, with numbers the province hasn't seen since June. Ontario reported 425 additional cases on Monday, another recent high, and two additional deaths. The lion's share — 175 new cases — are in Toronto, with 84 in Peel and 60 in Ottawa.

However, in this time, the increasing case numbers have been driven by younger people, with transmission reported at social events and workplaces, rather than among older people, particularly residents of long-term care homes. Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton has warned, however, that outbreaks in long-term care have followed rising case numbers in the communities where they're located.

(Please see the chart below to look of the pandemic over time, and in all, or any of, the province's public health units. Use the drop-down menu to switch between information on case ages and information on how the infection was acquired. The case acquisition information is recorded by the public health units and denotes whether information is available yet, and whether the infection was acquired as part of a known outbreak, as a close contact of a confirmed case, through travel, or, when there is "no epi link,"  from an unknown source in the community.)

Some aspects of the fall preparedness strategy are already known — Premier Doug Ford and Elliott have spoken about plans to increase the province's testing strategy by allowing asymptomatic people to be tested at pharmacies, following a similar program in Alberta.

Meanwhile, Elliott has said it will also include a staffing component that addresses the shortages of personal support workers and nurses, and addresses the scheduling of their hours and work locations, and includes the ability for PSWs to "ladder" up in their careers to become registered practical nurses or registered nurses.

The plan also includes flu vaccinations, outbreak management, testing capacity and reducing health service backlogs, according to a briefing deck given to the independent commission investigating the long-term care sector.

Elliott also tagged the price in the nine-figures.

"We've also asked for a lot of money to be able to do this both from the federal government and internally," she said. "And everyone has needed to do their due diligence with hundreds of millions of dollars being at stake here."

Avoiding virtual parliament

Meanwhile, Government House Leader Paul Calandra says the legislature has worked out a cohorting system meant to keep the coronavirus from halting the work of the government. MPPs will be divided into two groups that don't have contact with each other and won't be in the legislature at the same time.

"What we want to try and avoid, as best as we possibly can, is turning this into a Zoom parliament," said Calandra.

The premier, as well as the ministers of health, education, and long-term care, as well as Calandra, will be available at all times.

One minister, however, has been left out of both cohorts, and will be available "should both cohorts have a challenge," Calandra said.

Car rally

Ford used some of his signature tough talk on the unknown organizers of a car rally "mega meet" in Ancaster that attracted hundreds of people and vehicles.

Ford said he loves vintage and souped-up cars, but the event was in violation of the province's emergency order on large public gatherings, and the organizers — if they can be identified — could be in for a $10,000 fine.

He also had this message for them: "If we weren't so backlogged on MRIs I'd send you to the MRI to get your brain scanned because I just don't think there's anything in there."

He was also asked about the bullying of a female CHCH journalist who reported on the rally.

"Bully a woman? You can bully a man," he said. "Bully a woman? You guys are tough guys? You're unbelievable. That is weak, weak, weak cowards. You know, get your act together."

Ford on Ford

Meanwhile, Ford wouldn't exactly confirm a report in the Toronto Star that the province is offering Ford $500 million to bring electric vehicle production to its Oakville plant — but he did say the province is willing to pony up some money and it's asking that the production of the car batteries be done in Ontario as well.

"We would like to manufacture the batteries here rather than bringing ... the batteries in from out of country," he said. "We have the capabilities. We have the raw materials here. So why can't we produce the batteries?"

Jessica Smith Cross

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