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Ontario’s top doctor to speak as 170 new COVID-19 cases reported, mostly in the Greater Toronto Area

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams is set to provide an update on COVID-19 beginning at 3 p.m.

CBC News is carrying the news conference live above. 

Ontario reported an additional 170 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, concentrated mainly in the Greater Toronto Area.

The slight increase over the 149 new cases seen in yesterday’s update was accompanied by a bounce back in testing levels, with 24,699 test samples for the novel coronavirus processed by the province’s network of labs.

Toronto confirmed the most new cases, with 55. York Region saw 28 and Peel Region 22. Ottawa reported another 12 confirmed infections.

Further, 28 of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported five or fewer cases, and 14 of those 28 saw none, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

There have now been 43, 855 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 90 per cent are resolved. Another 142 were marked resolved in today’s update.

There are currently around 1,567 confirmed, active cases provincewide. 

After four straight days with no additional deaths, Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll grew by one yesterday and now sits at 2,814. A CBC News count based on data provided by public health units, however, puts the real toll at 2,855.

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 remained relatively steady at 54. Fourteen are being treated in intensive care, and nine of those are on ventilators.

Ford may ask surgeons to work weekends to clear backlog

Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’d like to see the province’s doctors begin working on weekends in order to clear a massive backlog of surgeries postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford estimates about 180,000 procedures were postponed after lockdown measures went into effect in March in order to curb the spread of the virus. 

Earlier this month, modelling research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal estimated Ontario’s surgery backlog would take at least a year and a half to clear. 

Ford says the Ministry of Health is looking into ways to address the waiting list, including asking surgeons to work on Saturdays and Sundays.

He says the government has funding available to address the issue, but did not disclose how much money has been set aside.

The ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Ottawa failing to enforce quarantine orders, premier says

Ford said Thursday the quarantine system is “broken” because federal health officers are not charging people ignoring self-isolation orders for COVID-19.

Since the end of March, an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act has required most people arriving from outside Canada to isolate themselves for 14 days, even if they don’t have symptoms.

WATCH | Canada’s Quarantine Act ‘broken,’ Ford says:

Calling penalties a ‘slap on the wrist,’ Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the current Quarantine Act for people arriving in Canada during the pandemic is broken and needs to change. 2:14

Federal quarantine officers can lay charges with penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of $750,000, while police can issue tickets of up to $1,000.

Federal health officials say nobody has been arrested for ignoring a quarantine order, though one person was issued a summons to appear in court and 42 people have been ticketed by police.

Ford says Ontario police checks have uncovered 622 quarantine order scofflaws and is frustrated about the lack of federal charges.

A spokesman for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the rules are clear and there are enforcement procedures in place for those who break them.

Ford cautions against sending kids out on Halloween

Ford also said Thursday he would prefer parents not take their children trick or treating this Halloween as the province  struggles to keep its COVID-19 case numbers under control.

Ford says the idea of children going door-to-door this year for Halloween as the pandemic continues makes him “nervous”.

The premier says while it is still a month and a half away, he will want to discuss the issue with the province’s health experts.

Ford says he is concerned because it is difficult to say where the province’s virus case count will be by the end of October.

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