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Ontario reports 260 more COVID-19 cases; provincial total at 1,966

TORONTO — Ontario reported 260 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, as the provincial government grappled with the spread of the virus in long-term care homes.

TORONTO — Ontario reported 260 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, as the provincial government grappled with the spread of the virus in long-term care homes.

The province has reported a total of 1,966 infections, including 33 deaths and 534 cases that have been resolved. One-third of the deaths in Ontario have been long-term care residents, said the associate chief medical officer of health.

Health officials have said 23 long-term care facilities in the province have reported cases of COVID-19, with 10 dealing with outbreaks. Twelve residents and the spouse of a resident at one nursing home alone have died from the illness.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has said the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon is the largest in the province. The health unit said at least 24 staff members are also infected.

Three residents at Pinecrest Nursing Home tested positive and since then, more than 30 other residents developed symptoms, though they have not been tested — per provincial guidelines — since the virus was already confirmed to be in the facility.

Ontario has enacted various measures at long-term care homes to try to stop the spread, including barring all but essential visitors, and enhancing screening and cleaning, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted.

"It's especially important right now that we do put that iron ring around our long-term care homes," she said.

Premier Doug Ford said his own mother-in-law is in a long-term care facility and it has been difficult for his wife being unable to visit her. But, he said, it's important to protect such a vulnerable population.

"We're doing everything we can," he said.

"I just wish we had a crystal ball a month ago, a month and a half ago, to see where this is going, but it's all hands on deck and I won't spare a penny to protect anyone, not to mention our seniors are a priority."

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said Tuesday that a man in his 70s in the city has died of COVID-19. He was tested on March 25 and died the next day, but his test results confirming he had the virus only came back Tuesday, Brown said. The death would not have been included in the provincial total of 33.

Long-term care homes in Ontario were given additional instructions this week to help reduce the spread and impact of the virus among residents and staff.

Under the new directive, which took effect Monday, every resident and staff member who shows symptoms of COVID-19 must be tested for the virus, even after an outbreak has already been declared in the home.

Previously, testing was only conducted on the first few symptomatic residents to establish the existence of an outbreak, after which further tests were not required.

Several other retirement and long-term care homes across the province have seen outbreaks of the virus in recent weeks.

Six residents have tested positive for COVID-19 at Hillsdale Terraces in Oshawa, Ont., including two — a woman and a man, both in their 90s — who died, according to health officials in Durham Region.

Another 25 residents of the home are showing symptoms of the virus but had not been tested as of Tuesday, given the previous government guidelines, a spokeswoman for the local health unit said.

Twelve staff members are also off work with respiratory symptoms, including three who have tested positive for COVID-19, Glendene Collins said in an email.

On Tuesday night, public health officials confirmed one man living at the Almonte Country home near Ottawa had died. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit also said another woman in the region died at the Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa. Both had underlying health problems.

Earlier this week, four cases — three residents and one staff member — were confirmed at the Almonte Country Haven home. They said infection control measures had been put in place and staff were instructed to wear personal protective equipment.

Seven cases were also confirmed at the Anson Place retirement and long-term care home in Hagersville, Ont., according to the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

A spokeswoman for the city of Hamilton said an ongoing outbreak at the Heritage Green Nursing Home has involved three confirmed cases among residents so far, including one who died. Another 17 residents are ill, Kelly Anderson said in an email.

Ten staff members at the home are also sick, with one confirmed case of COVID-19, Anderson said.

All symptomatic residents and employees will be tested, she said. 

Health officials said Tuesday they were working with management at the Carolina Retirement Residence in Perth, Ont., after a resident and a staff member at the facility tested positive for COVID-19.

One case was reported at Hillside Manor home in Stratford, Ont., public health officials said.

Employees who have been in contact with the infected resident have been told to wear protective equipment, and the staff member who is ill is isolating at home, they said.

An employee at the Dufferin Oaks home in Shelburne, Ont., tested positive for the virus but has not been at the facility since exhibiting symptoms, Dufferin County officials said. All residents are currently in self-isolation.

Health officials in Lambton County in southwestern Ontario reported an outbreak at an undisclosed institution but gave no further details.

On Monday night, a hospital in Mississauga, Ont., said it has an outbreak.

Credit Valley Hospital says four patients in an inpatient unit have tested positive.

The four patients are being relocated to a unit exclusively for COVID-19 patients.

All other patients in the unit are being monitored for symptoms.

In the general Ontario population, provincial figures show that about 11 per cent of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Ontario have been hospitalized.

Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 291 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 125 in intensive care and 82 of them on ventilators. That is 21 more people on ventilators since Monday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce extended school closures Tuesday until at least May 4, and private schools and daycares will be closed until at least April 13. That emergency order only allows for 14-day renewals.

Meanwhile, the provincial government warned that people who flout COVID-19 rules could face fines or even jail time.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said people could face fines if they fail to identify themselves when being charged with an offence under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year in jail.

"It is essential that measures are in place to allow provincial offences officers to lawfully require an individual to disclose their correct name, date of birth and address in order to protect our communities," Jones said in a release.

"It is the responsibility of all Ontarians to do their part and respect the emergency orders in place."

The government said the temporary power was approved to better protect people during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Failing to correctly identify oneself carries a fine of $750 or $1,000 for obstructing any person in exercising a power if a provincial offences officer issues a ticket.

Failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation, or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself.

The number of people awaiting test results continues to drop — to 4,280 Tuesday — as Ontario adds more testing capacity and clears a backlog that was once nearly 11,000.

Five members of the Toronto police have tested positive for COVID-19. Spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said four officers have the disease along with one civilian who works at police headquarters.

— with files from John Chidley-Hill and Liam Casey

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.

Allison Jones and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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