04/01/2020 13:37 EDT | Updated 04/01/2020 14:00 EDT

Ontario Creates $50 Million Fund To Help Businesses Produce Medical Supplies

Premier Doug Ford's government is relying on manufacturers to supply personal protective gear for workers on the front lines of COVID-19.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford talks with Metro Supply Chain Group COO Murray Brabender while inspecting personal protective equipment supplies at a warehouse in Toronto on March 29, 2020.

TORONTO — Ontario is launching a $50 million fund to help businesses retool their operations to produce medical equipment and personal protective gear for front-line workers.

Premier Doug Ford says the mass mobilization of government, businesses and people to slow the spread of COVID-19 is one of the most ambitious efforts undertaken by the province in generations.

The government says the Ontario Together Fund will go to the most viable, innovative proposals that can quickly provide medical supplies and equipment, including gowns, coveralls, face shields and ventilators.

The province has worked with the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association to get ventilators produced and Ontario recently ordered 10,000 of the machines from O-Two Medical Technologies.

Ontario is reporting 426 new COVID-19 cases today — the largest number so far — including four new deaths. 

Watch: Canadians cities gear up for worst-case scenario of COVID-19. Story continues below. 

It represents a nearly 22 per cent increase over the previous day and brings the provincial total to 2,392, including 37 deaths and 689 cases that have been resolved.

The number of pending test results has dropped by 1,145 in the past 24 hours to 3,135.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health is suggesting mandated isolation for people with COVID-19 and their contacts.

Dr. David Williams sent a letter Wednesday to the province’s local medical officers of health “strongly recommending” they use powers under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to require COVID-19 patients and their close contacts isolate themselves.

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the city will be issuing those orders to those people, as well as others suspected of having COVID-19.

In anticipation of a surge in patients, a hospital in Burlington, Ont., is building a temporary COVID-19 unit. Joseph Brant Hospital said the structure being built on hospital grounds will have 93 beds.

Construction workers help assemble a make-shift hospital outside the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., on April 1, 2020. The hospital is gearing up for patients to be treated for COVID-19. 

The hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Ian Preyra, said the pandemic response unit will allow the hospital to keep its critical care and high acuity beds for the sickest patients.

The Ministry of Health is also allowing all public hospitals to lease or acquire temporary space in institutions or other buildings, such as hotels or retirement homes.

The ministry says hospitals could use those spaces to house COVID-19 or other patients.

Hayley Chazan, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott, says as Ontario works to contain the COVID-19 outbreak there is a critical need for hospitals to maximize their capacity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2020.