TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford said late Monday he was pleased a U.S. manufacturer of medical equipment had reached a deal with the White House to continue sending desperately needed masks and respirators to Canada.
Ford had warned earlier in the day that Ontario would run out of personal protective equipment for health-care workers in one week due to a combination of delays in global shipments, domestic manufacturing lag time and U.S. restrictions.
President Donald Trump and his administration had ordered U.S. manufacturers of such equipment, including the Minnesota-based 3M, to prioritize domestic orders, leaving Canadian officials working to press for an exemption.
A shipment of hundreds of thousands of Ontario-bound masks were held up over the weekend by U.S. officials, and Ford said earlier in the day he was in contact with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“I want to thank 3M and officials on both sides of the border for their support to ensure Canada's continued access to vital PPE. We are stronger together,” Ford tweeted late Monday.
But there are several factors leaving Ontario's supply of masks and other protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic “strained,” Ford said earlier in the day.
“We're exhausting every avenue available to us, turning over every single stone, but the hard truth is our supplies in Ontario are getting very low and the more new cases we get the more demand is placed on our resources,” the premier said.
“How fast this virus spreads is up to all of us,” Ford said, urging people to stay at home except for essential trips such as groceries and medical appointments.
Even if and when the delayed mask shipment arrives in Ontario, that only buys the province another week, Ford said.
Various Ontario manufacturers are retooling to produce personal protective gear, but those supplies are weeks away from being ready, Ford said. Ontario is “desperately” counting on shipments the province has placed through the federal government's bulk purchasing program, he said.
Ontario has codes for all of the types of protective equipment such as masks, surgical gowns and face shields, Ford said.
“Right now they're all red,” he said.
Ontario reported 309 new COVID-19 cases Monday, including 13 new deaths. There have now been a total of 4,347 cases in the province, including 132 deaths and 1,624 patients who have recovered.
The total number of cases reported Monday represents a 7.7 per cent increase over the previous day's total - a lower percentage increase than in previous days.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said he would like to be optimistic about that, but cautioned it is only one day of data.
“I'd like to be encouraged but...I would not be jumping to any conclusions at this stage,” he said.
There are outbreaks in at least 46 long-term care homes, including the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon - a 65-bed facility that has reported 26 COVID-related deaths, including three on Sunday. Nearly 30 staff members have also tested positive.
At least 451 health-care workers in Ontario have tested positive for COVID-19, representing about 10 per cent of all cases in the province. In Windsor-Essex, where some health-care staff also work in neighbouring Detroit, 44 per cent of local cases are in health-care workers.
St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton declared a COVID-19 outbreak Monday after three of its health-care workers in the special care nursery tested positive.
One had no direct contact with patients or families, while the other two had either limited contact or contact while wearing a protective mask and neither were symptomatic while caring for the babies or family, the health unit said in a statement.
“Contact tracing is underway to ensure all babies, family members and staff/physicians who had direct contact with the positive health-care workers are tested and appropriate measures will be taken to limit transmission,” the statement said.
“No babies or parents in the unit are symptomatic. All are being monitored closely”
The hospital has created a designated space for infants who may have been exposed, and the unit is being deep-cleaned, the health unit said.
Ontario issued an emergency order Monday to allow police, firefighters and paramedics of obtain information on whether someone they are coming into contact with has tested positive for COVID-19.
“First responders put their lives on the line every day to protect Ontarians and they are at great risk of being directly exposed to COVID-19 as they fulfil their frontline duties,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a joint statement.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure the health and well-being of those working on the front lines and provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs and keep Ontarians safe.”
There are now 589 people in Ontario hospitalized with COVID-19, with 216 people in intensive care and 160 of them on ventilators.
A backlog of pending tests that was once at nearly 11,000 now stands at just 329.
The Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority said Monday that Eabametoong First Nation, also known as Fort Hope First Nation, is the first far north remote community with a case of COVID-19.