COVID-19 Update for March 16, 2020 – 12:00pm
Today, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, held a news conference to make a number of announcements related to the province’s COVID-19 response.
The Premier’s comments included:
- Asking Ontarians to avoid panic buying and hoarding, reassuring that Ontario has a sufficient food supply.
- Announcing increased screening and protection programs in long-term care homes.
- Recommending Ontarians who show symptoms to use a new online assessment tool (https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus) or visit an assessment centre.
- Urging the federal government to tighten up the border and to be prepared to take even greater steps to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.
- Reiterating that the “government has your back” and that any or all actions to respond to this crisis are under consideration.
Specific updates from provincial ministries:
LABOUR: Introduction of Worker Protection Legislation
- Legislation will amend the Employment Standards Act to protect Ontarians who cannot work due to COVID-19. This includes workers who may have or are undergoing treatment for COVID-19 and parents who are working from home.
- Doctor notes will not be required to be provided to employers.
- These changes are retroactive to January 25, 2020.
- Details about the new protections and who they cover are available here.
FINANCE: Delayed 2020 Budget
- Instead of a full Budget, Minister Philips will deliver an economic and fiscal update March 25, 2020 – which will be based on the understanding of the province’s economic situation on that date.
- The economic statement will include a one year outlook.
- The government hopes it will provide certainty for hospitals, schools and municipalities working to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
- The statement will include new measures and increased resources for health care, direct support for people, and action to protect jobs and the economy.
- The government is committing to providing regular financial updates as the situation evolves.
- The Minister of Finance has pledged to collaborate with the federal government and other provincial finance ministers.
HEALTH: Expanded Resources for Telehealth Ontario, Testing Centres, Remote Assessment
- Working closely with Telehealth Ontario, the province is rapidly expanding service capacity to ensure timely responses, including hiring 130 new nurses to conduct symptom assessments and referrals among callers who request a callback.
- Telehealth has developed a specific training package for newly added nurses to expedite their ability to provide callback support immediately.
- New physician billing codes have been approved, enabling doctors to continue to provide routine health care services by video and telephone, including assessment of possible COVID-19 symptoms.
- The province is exploring a partnership with organizations that have existing health care call centres to provide symptom assessment for COVID-19 callers requesting a callback.
- Dedicated assessment centres have been established in areas experiencing significant growth in COVID-19 testing, with additional centres to be set up across the province in the coming weeks.
If you have any questions or concerns please let us know.
The Enterprise Team