Coronavirus updates: Ombudsman investigating Ford government’s handling of long-term care homes; Ontario COVID-19 cases spike after 81 migrant workers test positive


Top COVID-19 stories and news

Case summary

  • As of May 31, there are 28,263 known cases of COVID-19 in Ontario.
  •  22,153 cases have been resolved in the province and 2,276 people have died.
  • As of May 31, there are 11,338 cases in Toronto, 8,630  recovered cases and 828  people have died.

The latest local and Canadian news on novel coronavirus

5:40 pm Toronto reports 164 new COVID-19 cases

Toronto Public Health has reported 164 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the city’s total to 11,338. Of those cases, 8,630 are considered recovered – up by 184 since yesterday. A total of 828 people have died in the city since the outbreak began.

5:27 pm Toronto public washrooms to reopen in two phases

After announcing last week that public washrooms in parks would start reopening this past weekend, the city is providing more details around protocols.

During a press conference at city hall, mayor John Tory said the city’s 200 washrooms will reopen in two phases: the first phase will see roughly 50 washrooms reopened by June 6. The rest will be open by mid-June. 

Washrooms at Christie Pits and Trinity-Bellwoods Park have already reopened.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) has recommended washrooms are deep cleaned once a week. Water fountains and bottle-filling stations are also reopening and will be cleaned and disinfected daily. Tory says the city will clean park washrooms, as well as attached drinking fountains and water bottle filling stations, a minimum of two times per day with one deep cleaning per week.

Tory also responded to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that Ottawa is fast-tracking gas tax money for cities. The mayor called the move a “good start.”

“This announcement is a good start but it does not represent the comprehensive response needed for cities, including the city of Toronto, and it is not new money,” he said, adding that he was happy to see Trudeau acknowledge “more funding would be coming to help Toronto and other municipalities.”

Toronto is facing a projected $1.5 billion revenue shortfall by the end of the year due to decreased transit ridership and lower land transfer tax revenue.

1:54 pm Ontario ombudsman investigating Ford government’s handling of long-term care homes

Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé’s is launching an investigation how Doug Ford’s government has handled oversight of long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the ombudsman’s office said Dubé initiated the investigation on his own – not in response to complaints – after a damning Canadian Armed Forces report detailed allegations of neglect in five care homes where military personnel were stationed.

“The Canadian Armed Forces report painted a stunning portrait of the situation in long-term care during this crisis; our investigation will look at the systemic issues that led to it, and will make constructive recommendations for corrective action,” the ombudsman said in a statement. “Determining the root causes of administrative dysfunction and recommending practical solutions is what we do.”

Investigators will look at how the ministries of health and long-term care’s standards and policies for nursing homes during the pandemic, whether oversight mechanisms put in place were adequate, the inspections carried out by the Ministry of Long-Term Care, emergency planning, data collection and rates of infection and death, among other things.

There is no set time frame for the investigation since most public servants working remotely, Dubé said, adding it “will proceed as efficiently as circumstances permit.”

1:46 pm Monday’s spike in COVID-19 cases due to 81 migrant workers testing positive

Premier Doug Ford today said the spike in Ontario’s new COVID-19 cases to 404 on Monday is due to 81 migrant workers in Southwestern Ontario who tested positive for the virus.

The premier said the workers self-isolated for two weeks after arriving in the province. “I will definitely be addressing this with public health to make sure we get all the migrant workers tested,” Ford said.

1:35 pm Ontario launches mobile COVID-19 testing van

Ontario is launching a mobile COVID-19 testing van. The first one will set up in Scarborough tomorrow from 9 am to 5pm at 1250 Markham Road. More info is available via the Scarborough Health Network website. Residents with and without symptoms are encouraged to get tested.

1:30 pm Ontario announces electricity relief for low-income residents, small businesses

After extending the fixed rate for electricity to October 31, the province has introduced rate relief measures for low-income residents and small businesses.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that Ontario is extending the ban on disconnection for residential customers to July 31. At the same time, the government is launching a $9 million energy assistance program for low-income families struggling to pay bills, which will be available as a one-time payment to cover debts incurred during the COVID-19 crisis.

The province is also launching an $8 million energy assistance program for small businesses struggling to pay bills due to the outbreak

11:55 am Toronto Public Library reopens drop boxes at 53 more branches today

The Toronto Public Library has reopened 53 library branch drop boxes today and will rollout curbside drop-off and pick-up services on June 8.

Drop-box services are now available at 70 braches and are only accepting the return of books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and audio books. Larger items such as musical instruments and Adruino kits are not being accepted yet as they may be damaged in drop boxes.

Residents are encouraged to return borrowed items, but it’s not mandatory. Borrowers can continue hold on to items until branches reopen and they will not be charged late fees.

11:35 am Ottawa fast-tracks gas tax revenue for cities struggling during COVID-19 crisis

The federal government will fast-track gas tax revenue for cities that are financially struggling during the pandemic.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will make $2.2B for municipalities in the coming weeks via the the gas tax fund. Normally cities receive that money in two annual instalments a year, but the entire amount for 2020-21 will now be available via a single early payment.

Municipalities are asking the provinces and federal government for $10 billion to cover financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We need to do more and we will do more. But in order to do more we have to work with the provinces because the municipalities fall within their jurisdiction,” Trudeau added.

Mayor John Tory has said Toronto is forecasting a $1.5 billion loss in revenue by the end of this year due to COVID-19.

11 am Ontario reports 404 new COVID-19 cases as testing drops below target

Provincial public health officials have reported 404 new COVID-19 cases and 10 more deaths.

That’s the highest daily case count in a week. Ontario’s total case count is 28,263 and 22,153 – or just over 78 per cent – are considered resolved.

After hitting a record high in testing, the number of tests completed has dropped below the daily target of 16,000. There were 14,379 tests completed since yesterday and 6,427 cases are under investigation.

The virus has killed a total of 2,276 people in the province. There are 781 patients in hospital, with 125 in intensive care and 81 in intensive care on ventilators.

10 am Ontario changes rules around temporary layoffs

The province is temporarily amending labour laws so employers aren’t forced to terminate employees during the pandemic.

Under the Employment Standards Act, businesses are required to terminate employees who have been laid off for 13 weeks. The employer must then pay severance to workers.

Non-unionized employees who have had hours temporarily reduced or eliminated due to the COVID-19 crisis will now considered on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. They will be considered employed with legal protections and eligible for emergency income support, such as the Canada Emergence Response Benefit or CERB.

The amendment is retroactive to March 1 and will expire six weeks after the province’s state of emergency ends. The regulatory change does not impact unionized workers.

“We need to make sure business owners can reopen their doors and workers have jobs to go back to,” said Ontario’s labour minister Monte McNaughton in a statement. “This regulatory change will protect businesses from being forced to permanently lay off their employees due to COVID-19 and suffer a financial loss that could shutter their operations for good.”

Statistics Canada reports that 379,000 Ontario workers were temporarily laid off in April 2020, an increase of 2,496 per cent compared with the same period a year prior.

9 am Canada has more than 90,000 cases of COVID-19

There are 90,947 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 7,295 people have died.

The outbreak is a serious public health threat though most people who contract the virus have not been hospitalized. 

Symptoms include cough, fever, difficulty breathing and pneumonia in both lungs and may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure. People age 65 and over and people with compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions have a higher risk of contracting a severe case.