Ontario sees 27 more COVID deaths as cases jump; 94 now dead from pandemic

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TORONTO — Another 27 more people have died in Ontario from COVID-19 as the number of cases jumped to 3,630, health authorities reported on Saturday.

The province has now had 94 known coronavirus deaths, far more than any other province, although Quebec has reported many more cases.

Ontario is projecting between 3,000 and 15,000 lives will be lost to the pandemic even with stiff stay-at-home restrictions. Premier Doug Ford said only essential workers should leave home unless it’s for getting groceries or other absolutely necessary reasons.

To drive home the message, Ford said another emergency alert would go out.

“We all know now that tens of thousands of lives are at stake,” Ford said. “We are in the fight of our lives.”

The elderly continue to be most susceptible to the worst effects of COVID-19. Two more residents of the hard-hit Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died from the disease, the home’s administrator reported.

In all, the virus has killed 22 residents at the seniors home as well as the wife of one resident, one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

“This is an especially trying time for all of us who are part of the Pinecrest community and we are all affected by this loss,” Pinecrest administrator Mary Carr said. “Even one loss in our home leaves a lasting mark on our residents, their families, and our care team and these recent deaths have been felt by the whole community.”

Staff at the residence have moved all residents with flu-like symptoms of the virus into one wing of the building and were trying to keep them as isolated as possible.

At least 24 staff members at the facility have also tested positive for COVID-19.

Local health authorities also reported a staff member at the Van Horne and Willowdale Retirement Residences in Smiths Falls, Ont., had tested positive for the coronavirus. The person was at home in self-isolation.

“Infection control measures under the Long Term Care Home Act have been put in place to manage the outbreak,” the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit said.

The pandemic has prompted much of normal commercial activity in the province to shut down as political and health leaders try to stem the spread and prevent hospitals from becoming overloaded. Keeping away from others and frequent hand-washing are the recommended ways to do that.

The stringent anti-pandemic measures have sparked massive economic disruption and cost businesses and individuals their income.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called on Ontario to ban evictions for small business tenants the same way it has done for residential tenants. Being able to pay rent is the biggest concern he has been hearing from small businesses in the city, Tory said.

“They are scared they can’t hang on, and the rent that is payable is one of the biggest factors,” Tory said.

The mayor implored landlords to sit down with their tenants to work out a way to help businesses make their rent payments at a later date.

The Ontario government effectively put a stop to evictions for residential tenants last month by cancelling all Landlord and Tenant Board hearings.

The province also announced a new web portal — at Ontario.ca/AgFoodJobs — to connect workers with employers looking to fill positions in the agri-food sector. The idea is to ensure grocery store shelves remain full during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Right now, there are important jobs that need to be filled across the food supply chain,” Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman said in a statement.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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