TORONTO — Ontario will run out of personal protective equipment for health-care workers in one week, Premier Doug Ford said Monday, as he and other top officials pressed the United States to ease restrictions on cross-border shipments.
A combination of delays in global shipments and the White House compelling U.S. manufacturers of equipment such as masks to prioritize domestic orders has left Ontario’s supply during the COVID-19 pandemic “strained,” Ford said.
“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.
U.S. officials stopped a shipment of N95 masks out of 3M in South Dakota that were bound for Ontario, Ford said. He has been in conversation with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has been pressing Vice-President Mike Pence, he said.
The 500,000 masks should be released Monday, Ford said, but even if and when they arrive in Ontario, that only buys the province another week.
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.
132 Ontarians have died
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.
There are outbreaks in at least 46 long-term care homes, including the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, where three more residents died Sunday, for a total of 26 deaths in that home alone.
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.
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.
160 COVID-19 patients on ventilators
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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2020.