COVID-19 Update for May 7

This page was last updated on May 7th. For up-to-date information on the COVID-19 situation please visit: Ontario.ca/coronavirus

Most Willowdalers continue to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic by staying home. Thank you. I know it's hard but your sacrifice today is saving lives. If you are not already, please stay home unless absolutely essential to leave. Leave your home only to go grocery shopping once a week, or to pick up medication or seek medical attention.

Do your part, please stay home!

The Ontario Government continues to monitor, prevent and respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus. As the situation changes, day by day, hour by hour, our government will continue to monitor the outbreak and escalate our responses as necessary. The health and wellbeing of Ontarians is our government's top priority.

My team and I continue to be available by phone and email to answer questions and connect you with any support or resources you may need during this time. You can reach us at 416-733-7878 or at stan.cho@pc.ola.org

Here is an update on new actions taken since April 22nd:

For a list of actions taken before April 22nd please see: https://www.stanchompp.ca/covid_19_update_for_april_22

You can also see an updated list of provincial, federal and municipal government supports for people and businesses, and a list of local Willowdale resources by clicking one of the buttons below:

Supports for People     Support for Businesses     Local Resources

Released the Framework: A Measured Approach to Planning for Surgeries and Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, announced Ontario has released a framework to help hospitals assess their readiness and begin planning for the gradual resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures, while maintaining capacity to respond to COVID-19. This framework outlines clear criteria that hospitals must meet before resuming scheduled surgeries and procedures. The goal is to gradually get surgeries back on track, while protecting frontline staff and patients, and ensuring hospitals stay prepared for any potential outbreak or surge of COVID-19.

Further Protection for Forestry Employees

Made $3.5 million available to the forestry industry to protect workers planting trees this season during the COVID-19 outbreak. The funds will be used for larger camp facilities and additional kitchens to provide more space as well as extra personal protective equipment to support workers who will be planting 70 million trees in Ontario’s forests this year.

Launched #TakeOutWednesdayON

Launched "#TakeoutDay Wednesdays" initiative in Ontario aimed at driving up businesses for local restaurants that are suffering due to COVID-19. This campaign will run for Wednesday's throughout the month of May, beginning May 6th.

Extended Hydro Relief for Consumers

Extended the emergency electricity rate relief for time-of-use customers, including families, farms and small businesses, until May 31, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. The relief was initially provided for a 45-day period starting on March 24, and is intended to be in place for an additional 24 days.

Launched Economic Recovery Online Survey

Launched the online survey as part of our consultation, which seeks feedback on the impacts of COVID-19 on personal finances, business supports, and government relief measures. The survey will be open until June 2020 and the insights will be used by the members of the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee to help inform the province’s restart and recovery plan.

Update: Eased Restrictions on Certain Businesses

On May 6th, our government allowed garden centres and nurseries to reopen beginning May 8, hardware and safety supply stores to reopen on May 9, and retail stores with a street entrance to provide curbside pickup and delivery as of May 11.

Expanded the essential construction list to allow below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects, like apartments and condominiums, to begin and existing above-grade projects to continue.

Expanded Virtual Mental Health Services

On May 5th, our government announced that we are significantly increasing access to virtual mental health services to help thousands of Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 outbreak. These Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs were developed in partnership with MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell and will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to Ontarians across the province.

Established a Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table, led by the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on access to public mental health and addictions services.

Reduced Costs for Restaurants and Bars

Allowed licensed restaurants and bars to sell spirits with a food order at a lower price (reducing the minimum price of $2.00 per 29 mL to $1.34 per 29 mL) and made it easier for cideries to sell directly to consumers by temporarily removing the requirement for cideries to have five acres of planted fruit in order to qualify for a store at their cidery.

Increased Testing Capacity and Contact Tracing

On May 4th, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott announced Ontario has significantly increased testing and contact tracing capacity, allowing health experts to identify cases of COVID-19 and support efforts to stop the spread of the virus. On April 30, Ontario exceeded the target of 16,000 tests a day, with many of those tests aimed at protecting long-term care residents and staff. To date, Ontario has conducted over 342,000 tests.

Developed an integrated laboratory system which has established the province as a national leader in daily testing volumes per capita.

Flooding Preparedness

On May 2nd, our government released Ontario's Flooding Strategy in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on municipalities this year. We are actively working with federal and municipal governments, non-governmental organizations and First Nation partners to ensure the province is prepared to meet the challenge of flooding season during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the development of evacuation plans in high-risk regions.

Allowed Certain Businesses and Workplaces to Reopen

On May 1st, Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health announced that our Government is allowing select businesses and workplaces to reopen as long as they comply with strict public health measures and operate safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Those permitted to reopen include garden centres and nurseries with curbside pickup and delivery, lawn care, landscaping, no touch car washes, and auto dealership by appointment only. Golf courses and marinas may begin preparations for the season, but may not open to the public. The list of essential construction projects was expanded to include shipping and logistics; broadband, telecommunications and digital infrastructure; municipal projects; colleges and universities; child care centres; schools; and site preparation, excavation, and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development.

Delegated More Responsibilities to Health Professionals

Gave hospitals the authority and flexibility to more quickly appoint, reappoint and grant privileges to medical and other professional staff to address potential surge volumes.

Authorized coroners, registered nurses appointed as coroner investigators and public health units to access the provincial electronic health record to help reduce demands on clinicians’ time related to death investigations, reduce exposure to COVID-19-related death investigations, and improve the ability to monitor the spread of the virus.

Provided Hydro Relief for Businesses

Passed an emergency order to defer a portion of the Global Adjustment charges for industrial and commercial electricity consumers that do not participate in the Regulated Price Plan for the period starting April 2020. This is intended to give companies immediate relief to their monthly electricity bills in April, May and June 2020. The government intends to keep this emergency order in place until May 31, 2020, and subsequent regulatory amendments would, if approved, provide for the deferral of these charges for June 2020 as well.

Enhanced Worker Safety

On April 30th, the Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, released new safety guidelines to protect workers, customers and the general public from COVID-19. These measures provide direction to those working in manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service, and the agricultural sector as the government prepares for a gradual reopening of the provincial economy. They build on more than 60 guidelines developed by Ontario's health and safety associations in response to COVID-19 for various sectors such as retail, health care, construction, transportation, police services, firefighters, and transit employees.

Issued posters to promote a variety of useful safety tips, including advice on physical distancing and sanitation. They are downloadable from the Ontario.ca website so employers can print and post them in their workplaces.

Added 58 new inspectors to join the hundreds of existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground. These inspectors have been tasked with communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, including physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.

Recently doubled the capacity of Ontario’s Health and Safety Call Centre to 50 phonelines to deal with a large increase in calls.

Launched 511 Mobile App

Launched a mobile app to support truckers drivers across Ontario. This free app will make it easier for truck drivers to find traveller information such as rest areas, construction and road closures. It also features a drive mode that provides audio alerts to inform drivers of upcoming incidents or closures to help navigate the safe delivery of goods for Ontarians.

Expanded Emergency Child Care

On April 29th, our government expanded the list of essential workers eligible to receive free emergency child care during the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who will benefit include essential workers in the food supply chain, cooking and cleaning in health care facilities, trucking, deaf and deafblind interpretation, retirement homes, grocery stores and pharmacies, emergency services for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and certain federal employees, including the military.

To accommodate more children, 37 additional child care centres have been approved and will be reopening in the coming days.

Launched the COVID-19: Tackling the Barriers Website

On April 28th, our government launched the COVID-19: Tackling the Barriers website to help businesses overcome the unique challenges created by the global pandemic. Businesses working to retool their operations to produce health-related products, or those that want to continue their operations in this new environment of physical distancing, can submit any potential roadblocks to the website. The province is prepared to allow temporary changes to provincial rules and regulations in order to remove any barriers that are hindering business and negatively impacting Ontario's supply chain.

Released A Framework for Reopening our Province

On April 27th, our government released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces. The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.

This framework outlines a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.

Extended School Closures

On April 26th, Min. Lecce announced that all publically-funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020, as part of an effort to keep students, staff and families safe from COVID-19. Regardless of what transpires over the coming weeks, Ontario’s students will be able to complete their school year with confidence. In particular, for students in their final year, all impediments have been removed to ensure students graduate and pursue post-secondary education.

Pandemic Pay for the Broader Public Sector

On April 25th, Premier Ford and Minister Bethlenfalvy announced a temporary pandemic payment increase for frontline staff in recognition of the dedication, long hours and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The increase will provide $4 per hour worked on top of existing hourly wages, regardless of the qualified employee’s hourly wages. In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month will receive lump sum payments of $250 per month for the next four months. This means eligible employees working an average of 40 hours per week would receive $3,560 in additional compensation.

Update: Allowing Redeployment of Staff

Allowed for the redeployment of staff to ensure they can work where they are needed most during the COVID-19 outbreak. This will help to quickly provide much-needed staffing support to long-term care homes while they continue to fight outbreaks.

Provided staffing flexibility to service providers and employers in the intervenor services sector, which helps people who have a combined loss of hearing and vision. This provides employers the temporary authority to redirect staff to carry out essential tasks to support and protect people who are deafblind.

Permitted the Use of Gardens

Permitted the use of allotment gardens and community gardens across the province to help ensure food security for some individuals and families during the pandemic. Local medical officers of health provided advice, recommendations and instructions that the gardens must meet in order to operate, such as physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting of commonly used equipment and surfaces.

Extended the Closure of Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves

Provincial parks and conservation reserves will continue to remain fully closed to all recreational until May 31, 2020. This includes car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, day use opportunities, access points and all public buildings.

Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistant Program

On April 24th, the Ontario government announced their partnership with the federal government to provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing potential rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The province committed $241 million through the new Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA). The total amount of provincial-federal relief that would be provided is more than $900 million, helping to ensure small businesses are ready to reopen their doors when the emergency measures are lifted.

Launched the Agri-Food Open for E-Business Program

Partnered with the federal government to invest up to $2.5 million to help the agri-food sector expand online to provide more opportunities for producers to grow their business and offer more food choices for families who are shopping from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Agri-Food Open for E-Business initiative provides assistance to food producers, farmers markets, retailers, garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries and agricultural associations develop an online business, providing consumers with greater access to a wide variety of food and agriculture products.

COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People

On April 23rd, our government announced the COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People. The purpose of this plan is to better protect those living in high risk settings including homes serving those with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking and children’s residential settings. This includes Indigenous residential settings on and off reserve.

The plan focuses on three specific areas:
1. Enhanced screening and reduced exposire to prevent spread
2. Infection control: managing outbreaks and limiting spread
3. Sustaining staffing and managing staffing shortages.

The government has also moved to immediately to solicit ideas on additional actions and measures that can be taken now to further support vulnerable Ontarians and staff in high-risk settings.

Extended Emergency Orders

Emergency orders that have been put in place to-date under s.7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act have been extended until May 6, 2020.

Allowing Redeployment of Staff

Introduced a new measure to allow mental health and addictions agencies to redeploy staff within different locations or between programs, and employ extra part-time staff, temporary staff or contractors in order to ensure people continue receiving the high-quality care they expect and deserve during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Questions? Need Help?

My constituency office remains accessible via email: stan.cho@pc.ola.org and phone: 416-733-7878. For everyone’s safety, we are not taking any in-person meetings, walk-ins or appointments. 

We've also compiled a list of government supports for people and businesses, and a list of local Willowdale resources. Check them out here:

Supports for People     Support for Businesses     Local Resources