Apr 12, 2021

Ontario, CA Doug Ford Press Conference COVID-19 Restrictions Transcript April 12: Shuts Down In-Person Schooling

Doug Ford Press Conference Ontario, CA COVID-19 Restrictions Transcript April 12: Shuts Down In-Person Schooling
RevBlogTranscriptsCanada COVID-19 Briefing TranscriptsOntario, CA Doug Ford Press Conference COVID-19 Restrictions Transcript April 12: Shuts Down In-Person Schooling

Ontario, Canada Premier Doug Ford held a press conference on April 12, 2021 to discuss COVID-19 restrictions. He announced that schools will remain closed after spring break. Read the transcript of the briefing here.

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Premier Doug Ford: (00:00)
We’re at a critical point right now. Many of the health indicators continue to surpass the worst case scenario. And as it was shown from the beginning, when it comes to keeping you safe, this government will not hesitate to act. The situation is changing quickly and we need to respond. Right now, I’m extremely concerned about the new variants, the South African variant, the UK variant spreading in India and the Brazilian variant that is spreading rampantly in B.C. right now. And we need the federal government to look at tighter restrictions at our borders to protect us from these deadly variants of concern. And here at home, we have taken decisive action to get the spread in our communities down with a stay at home order announced last week. We need some time for the actions we’ve taken so far to start having the effect we need. And our best defense right now is staying home, limiting mobility, staying the course when it comes to health and science. But the next few weeks will be critical.

Premier Doug Ford: (01:20)
Right now we need to do everything possible to get ahead of these variants. And unfortunately that means locking out our schools. I know this is not what many of you want to hear, Minister Lecce and his team have done an incredible job keeping the schools safe. But until we get the numbers in the community down to where we need them, the problem is not in our schools, it is in our community. And bringing our kids back to a congregate setting in school after a week off in the community is a risk that I won’t take, because we know that the more COVID spreads in our communities, the more likely it is to get into the schools, and that would create massive problems for all of us down the road. My friends, no one wants our kids in school more than I do. That’s where they belong. But with COVID spreading like wildfire, with these deadly variants taking hold in Ontario, we simply can’t be too cautious right now. We have to be proactive. And when it comes to keeping our kids safe, I will never take unnecessary risk.

Premier Doug Ford: (02:37)
That’s why based on consultation with Dr. Williams and our health officials last night, today we’re taking further action. We’re moving school online only after the April break. We will keep a constant eye on the data, on case numbers, hospital capacity, and ICU admissions to determine when we can get kids back in the classrooms. I want nothing more than to be able to open the schools up again as soon as possible, but we all need to work together right now to get the community spread under control. Folks, that’s how we get the schools open.

Premier Doug Ford: (03:16)
Minister Lecce and his team have done an incredible job of getting our online learning system up and running. Thanks to this online learning system, we can ensure our kids keep learning remotely, even with some disruption. And we will ensure we have childcare options in place, because I know this will be very, very hard on many working families. This was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision. Childcare for nonschool-age children will remain open. But before and after-school programs will be closed. We will also provide free emergency childcare for school-age children of healthcare and frontline workers. And we’re working on a robust childcare plan for many workers who could not work from home. Minister Lecce will provide more information on these measures in a moment. But I want to assure you that we will continue to prioritize the vaccination of education workers who support students with special education needs right across our province and all education workers in select hotspot areas. Moving students to remote learning will allow more time to deliver these vaccines. And we’re making tremendous progress every single day. By the end of today, we will have administered over 3.3 million vaccines. That’s 3.3 million vaccines. I continue to ask everyone to get a vaccine as soon as you’re eligible to do so. I got mine on Friday. Please folks, this is how you can help us get kids and teachers back in school as soon as possible. All Ontarians who are eligible can book their vaccination appointment by visiting ontario.ca/covidvaccine or by calling +1 888-999-6488, that’s +1 888-999-6488. And we’re rolling out vaccinations at pharmacies across the province with more added every single week. If you’d like to go to a pharmacy, visit ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine to find a neighborhood pharmacy that is administering vaccines.

Premier Doug Ford: (05:41)
We have come so far already, and if vaccines keep coming in from the federal government, we expect to have 40% of Ontario adults vaccinated by the end of the four week, stay-at-home order. But we must remain vigilant and give ourselves every chance to beat this pandemic. Thank you, and God bless the people of Ontario. Now I’ll pass it over to Minister Lecce.

Minister Lecce: (06:08)
Good afternoon. Our government recognizes the critical importance of in-person learning for Ontario students. It is key to their mental health, wellbeing, and long-term success. That’s why throughout this pandemic, we have worked hard to keep schools safe and to keep them open. We’ve been successful in this regard, and prior to the April break, more than 99% of students and staff did not have an active case of COVID-19. Medical experts, including our province’s chief medical officer of health have been clear that with appropriate measures in place, our schools are safe, and in school, transmission of COVID-19 has remained low. This is in large part, thanks to the extensive measures we’ve put in place to protect kids. Now despite these efforts, we recognize the threat posed by rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, increasing hospitalization and the pressure our healthcare system is experiencing as a result. This worrying trend will leave us in an impossible situation if we do not act immediately.

Minister Lecce: (07:09)
And that is why in consultation with the chief medical officer of health, we have made the decision to move elementary and secondary students across the province to remote learning, following the April break. Our government is taking decisive action to keep your child safe. Now to date, we have kept our school safe, but today’s announcement is about prevention. It is a proactive and sadly necessary precaution as we tackle the third wave of COVID-19. Cases across Ontario communities are rising quickly, and the new COVID-19 variants pose a serious threat. As we tackle the broader situation by pivoting to remote learning, we can support our collective fight and our effort to defeat this pandemic. I want to be clear that school boards will be directed to provide continued, in-person support for students with special education needs, who cannot learn remotely. And once elementary students have moved to remote learning, childcare for non-school aged children will remain open. And free emergency childcare for the school-aged children of healthcare and frontline workers, will be provided.

Minister Lecce: (08:14)
Our government will continue to listen to the advice of public health experts, and we will update parents once a safe return to in-person learning is recommended. I want to commend our teachers, our education staff, our childcare workers for their incredible public service during this pandemic. And of course, I want to recognize the resilience of our students and families. This past year has been disruptive and challenging, and we understand the impact this has on young kids. It’s why the government has invested $52.5 million for expanded access to support youth mental health and to support students with special education needs. This services and supports will continue over this period of remote learning. Know that we remain committed to returning to learning, in- person as soon as it is safe to do so. I know what that, together…

Minister Lecce: (09:03)
In-person as soon as it is safe to do so. I know with that together, we will defeat this pandemic. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (09:07)
We’ll go to the phone line for questions. First question please.

Speaker 2: (09:12)
I have Travis Dhanraj at Global News. Go ahead.

Travis Dhanraj: (09:15)
Hi there, Minister, and Premier Ford. Thanks for taking my question. I’m scratching my head a bit right now because I guess I’m wondering what’s dramatically changed between yesterday at 1:00 PM when the Minister said schools would remain open after the April break, and today, here we are sitting at 3:13 PM. To a lot of people in the province, it certainly seems like the left hand has no clue what the right hand is doing, which leads to a lot of confusion, mistrust and questions about whether or not leadership in this province actually know what they’re doing leading us through this pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford: (09:49)
Well, Travis, before I send it over to Dr. Williams, let me be very clear. This pandemic moves rapidly. These variants move rapidly. When we received information laid out late in the afternoon, we decided to act immediately. And I wish I could predict where this variant goes every single day, but again, when we find out information and we received it, we have to act. I’m not ready to the chance sending kids back to school as we see the peak hasn’t even hit. We haven’t even hit the peak in this variant.

Premier Doug Ford: (10:34)
We have a two-part plan. The two-part plan is making sure that, number one, we get the ICUs down by limiting mobility, keeping people at home. Part two to that is going into hot areas and workplaces in those hot areas and getting people vaccinated. As you saw, Apotex already on Friday in a day’s notice and all this week, we’re doing that. We’re focusing on the areas of greatest concern right now.

Premier Doug Ford: (11:06)
And you know something, Travis, I just want to thank everyone out there because I’ll take the responsibility. I’ve always said I will take responsibility as premier, but there is tens of thousands of people, when you make your comments, tens of thousands of people working their back off every single day doing an incredible job on all fronts. I’ll pass it over to Dr. Williams.

Dr. Williams: (11:38)
So the aspect of change and the rapidity of change we have to monitor very closely. In the past with the initial COVID, we would look at a seven day rolling average. The VOCs, the variants of concerns, are moving much quicker that way. We are not waiting for a whole week to see if the overall weekly average changes. That means we have to move much more nimbly as we see the data moving.

Dr. Williams: (12:04)
A few days ago, we had 112 cases per 100,000 in Ontario. Today or yesterday, we have 151 cases per 100,000. That’s province-wide, and every health unit with the exception of one or two increased cases over yesterday.

Dr. Williams: (12:18)
And so we see this moving rapidly in our communities. We see cases and we hear of cases where family members have been tested positive, the other family member doesn’t and become ill end up in the emergency department very quickly.

Dr. Williams: (12:32)
So this is a new issue, not new in some areas. We’re learning more how the B117 is moving, the P1, and we’re watching our other provinces, especially those in Quebec and to the west of us are dealing with the same issues as it moves quickly through their highly dense populated communities and other ones throughout the province.

Dr. Williams: (12:50)
So part of the thing is to be ready to move, to move quickly. Instead of waiting for a few more days, we moved on this one and we made a decision as we saw more and more community cases rising rapidly and impacting our schools, which we have maintained safe up until our break. And we are not expecting the numbers to improve that well over the next few days as we’re seeing the impact of the Easter weekend and we want to understand that before we make any further decisions.

Dr. Williams: (13:17)
So a prolonged closure this time is only about prudent and necessary, even though many of the MOHs back a week ago were saying we will hope to keep open, they changed their mind late on Friday and on Saturday.

Speaker 1: (13:29)

Travis Dhanraj: (13:32)
Okay. I’m still trying to process that answer, but Premier, I just want to zoom out and asked you about some of your comments over the weekend. You declared that Ontario is quote, “Doing pretty well right now.” Can you explain what you meant by that? Because for most people, when they look around, they see people who’ve lost their jobs, parents that are at the end of their wits, small business owners and folks that are going bankrupt and loved ones dying in crowded ICUs and hospitals. So by what metric is Ontario quote doing pretty well?

Premier Doug Ford: (14:02)
Well, I think you know exactly what I meant when I was asked at Apotex how’s it going. The vaccinations are going extremely well, and that’s exactly what I meant. Make no mistake about it, I’ve been out here almost every single day saying I’m very, very concerned, extremely concerned, but when I was at Apotex and we’re vaccinating 200 people that day with 24 hours notice, yeah, the vaccinations are going extremely well as long as we continue to get the vaccines from the federal government. Okay? That’s exactly what I was talking about.

Speaker 1: (14:43)
Next question.

Speaker 2: (14:46)
From Chris Glover at CBC News. Please go ahead.

Chris Glover: (14:51)
Hey there, Premier, thank you so much for answering these questions today. I wanted to start with the ICU capacity. It’s obviously something that we’ve talked about a lot over the last couple of weeks, but I guess the big question today is what are you going to do to bolster the ICU capacity? In terms specifically, talking about bringing in the military perhaps to help or bringing in critical care staff from other jurisdictions? Even the Registered Nurses Association is suggesting bringing in former ICU nurses who are on retirement leaves, for example. Apparently back during the first wave, some 700 ICU nurses were identified as potential reinforcements, but they’ve not yet been given the call to come back.

Premier Doug Ford: (15:36)
I’ll pass that to the Minister of Health.

Minister of Health: (15:39)
Well, thank you for the question, Chris. The level of ICUs right now is high as the variants of concern continue to transmit rapidly, but that is why we issued the stay-at-home order and issued the declaration of emergency in the first place. As you know, the hospitals have been instructed to ramp down all surgeries except the ones that are absolutely life and death matters. That’s why we have issued the order to transport patients from one location to another, from a hotspot zone to an area that still has capacity and the redeployment of staff, both from Ontario Health and from the former [inaudible 00:16:20].

Minister of Health: (16:20)
but we’re looking at other options as well because we are also creating net new critical care capacity spaces. We expect to have 350 net new spaces by the end of this week. And so right now we’re looking at a number of alternatives to expand the student learner example for a student nurses when they’re in their last year of nursing. In addition to the work that they need to do for their qualifications, they’re also being paid to do extra hours to assist in our hospitals so that the nurses with the greater experience and knowledge can then move up to the intensive care units.

Minister of Health: (16:57)
So we are looking at a number of ways that we will be able to increase the number of health human resources in our intensive care units today as we speak.

Speaker 1: (17:07)

Chris Glover: (17:10)
Okay, great. Thanks for that. I also just want to pick up on something that I believe I heard the Premier say right off the top of the press conference today, which was that 40% of adults will be vaccinated in Ontario by the end of the stay-at-home order. And I just want to parse out that one a touch because I thought that the goal eventually with herd immunity was something around the lines of 60% or 70% of the population. So 40% would be quite below that threshold. So is it concerning that we would be coming out of the stay-at-home order with perhaps only 40% of adults in Ontario vaccinated? And what sort of safeguards are being planned and prepared for that?

Premier Doug Ford: (17:52)
Yeah, good question, but by no means would 40% be herd immunity. That’s a really, really a tough target to meet, but we are going to meet it considering-

Premier Doug Ford: (18:03)
… be a tough target to meet, but we are going to meet it considering the supply of vaccines that we have. Let me tell you, I know the federal government’s, they’re working their backs off getting this, the vaccines. But I’m going to tell you the numbers. We have 2.8 million appointments booked with pharmacies, and along with the mass vaccination centers. We have 900,000 in the freezers. We’ll go through in the next little while. As long as we get those vaccines, then we’re going to be able to hit those targets.

Premier Doug Ford: (18:35)
I want to thank all the people out there at the mass vaccination centers, the primary care docs, the pharmacies, especially. They’re working around the clock and they’re working their backs off. They’re doing an incredible job. I think we’re targeted for another 100,000 today. They’re doing a great job, and I just want to thank them for the work that they’re doing there.

Speaker 3: (19:00)
Next question.

Speaker 4: (19:03)
From Melissa Candelaria at Halton News. Please go ahead.

Melissa Candelaria: (19:07)
Hi there, Premier.

Premier Doug Ford: (19:08)

Melissa Candelaria: (19:08)
Thanks for taking my question.

Premier Doug Ford: (19:09)
Thank you.

Melissa Candelaria: (19:09)
I just wanted to ask now that, this is probably for the Minister of Education, actually, too, with regards to the shutting down of schools and you had mentioned Premier that there might be more time for further vaccinations. I know from teachers in Peel and Toronto can go ahead and start registering and the Minister of Education was sent a letter by the Halton Catholic district school board asking for our teachers out here to be added to that mix over the break. Is there any talk of getting more teachers and educational workers vaccinated instead of just in those hotspot regions in the next little while when schools are shut down?

Minister Lecce: (19:51)
The government has immunized 3.2 million doses, that’s what’s been delivered to the people of Ontario. 75,000 the last 24 hours. There’s been some great progress made. Obviously, our commitment is to get every frontline worker vaccinated as we wait upon more supply. The premier mentioned this, I mean, we recognize everyone’s doing their part, all levels of government working together. We need more vaccine. As we get it, we’ll be able to get it into the arms of our frontline staff. Those in Halton, in Hamilton, in York, in Durham, as well as in Ottawa and in other hotspots that we’ve identified as the next grouping of communities outside of Toronto and Peel that will receive accelerated access to the vaccine. The intent, to be quite frank, is to scale that up province-wide to all of our education workers, as well as our childcare workers, both of whom really play critical roles to keep kids safe. As we get more supply, I assure every worker within our schools and our childcare settings, we’re going to work around the clock to get them into your arms up.

Speaker 3: (20:48)

Melissa Candelaria: (20:50)
Great. I guess just a clarification, because you are a shutting down schools and there’s work towards for childcare for those students, can you clarify the reasoning behind keeping our childcare centers open but shutting down the schools in general?

Minister Lecce: (21:08)
Sure. I’ll turn it over to Dr. Williams to speak about some of the medical perspectives. But obviously we have had great success, both in our schools and our childcare settings. The recommendation of the chief medical officer of health has been that schools, which represent in and around 1.5 million kids that were going into class physically, that by having them stay home that can help limit mobility and ultimately help reduce the risk of this virus spreading.

Minister Lecce: (21:35)
We know schools have been safe. Childcare centers have been safe. We’ve got very strong protocols in place. We built out a plan, for example, to strengthen them upon the return of kids after the April break. Given the developments, the seven-day average, the fact that for the last four days, we’ve been hitting north of 4,000 cases and a real challenge within our ICU, the decision was taken, as difficult as it is, to protect your family and ultimately to prevent this crisis from getting worse. That’s the decision. That’s why we made it. Obviously, we’re going to continue to focus on keeping our childcare settings safe. As I said, as more supply becomes available, getting them access to the vaccine.

Dr. Williams: (22:21)
Further, to Minister Lecee’s comment, one of the things that’s critical at this time, as Minister Elliott had alluded to, is that in this pressure on our healthcare system, we have to keep all our healthcare workers and our essential workers on the job. We know that our childcare services, which we have checks and balances to make sure they’re as safe as they can be, are critical for some of these workers to being able to go and continue to go in to work to care in the ICU and other centers for the public and the patients that are coming in in increasing numbers into our healthcare facilities, as they’re trying to deal with that pressure right now. This will help and assist as much as we can, as well as adding in essential care for the older students that can be made available during this time, which we didn’t have opened before, but we know is very critical at this time to ensure that these essential workers can report in and do their critical work and very valuable work at this time and to assist them in this way. This has been another step in that direction.

Speaker 3: (23:22)
Next question.

Speaker 4: (23:24)
From Laura Stone at the Globe and Mail, please go ahead.

Laura Stone: (23:29)
Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Minister Lecee, I was hoping you could clarify or confirm that there’s no return date now on children coming back to class, and do you have any sense of when you’ll know and be communicating to parents what the plan is?

Minister Lecce: (23:47)
Look, I think it’s well known that the government, the premier, every one of us, we want kids to be in school. There’s just overwhelming evidence it’s the best place for them for their mental health. We appreciate that fully. The decision point we’ve made today is to continue remote learning based on the medical advice that came to us, that it actually would be better to help reduce the community transmission to help keep these school settings safe by keeping them home, learning, but keeping them home. We will provide advice. Rather, we’ll communicate to parents based on the advice we receive from the chief medical officer of health to reopen our schools. That is our intent. It just has to be safe. As soon as we get that, go ahead from Dr. Williams and his colleagues, we’ll make sure parents know with advanced notice si that they can plan for their kids to return to school.

Speaker 3: (24:37)

Laura Stone: (24:37)
Just to follow up on what Travis had asked earlier, it just seems like you were caught off guard by trends, I guess, that many experts had seen coming a mile away. Minister Lecee, if you could answer clearly, why did you write a letter less than 24 hours ago, essentially saying the opposite of what your government is announcing today?

Minister Lecce: (24:59)
I think actually what we put in the letter was a plan, communicated a plan for, following the April break, for it to be safe. We communicated accelerated access to vaccines for special education workers and education workers in hotspots. We communicated a plan that spoke about expanded access to asymptomatic testing to over 180 assessment centers. We talked about a plan urging families at home to remain vigilant, given the real risks of this third wave.

Minister Lecce: (25:24)
Obviously, our intention all along has been for kids to return, to safely learn in schools. That’s been our long-standing commitment. However, based on discussions we had with Dr. Williams and the medical teams over the past hours, needing to act quickly and decisively during COVID-19, we’ve made this decision, as difficult as it is, with one aim, which is to lower these community rates to get our kids back. That’s why we’ve made the decision point today, keeping in mind that very strong protocols, including a stay-at-home order remain in effect in this province, because we want to really tackle the root cause of this, which is community transmission that is potentially impacting the safety of schools. Appreciate that we’re moving quick. I think COVID-19 requires us to be decisive and move at COVID speed, as the premier has said before, and we’re just going to continue to do what’s right.

Minister Lecce: (26:15)
I know this is challenging for parents. We’ve announced financial support for parents, our support for families program, $400 per child. We’ve announced improvements to technology, to tablets, to internet connection for families in need, and we’ve expanded our online-learning program precisely for these tough regrettable circumstances where we have to make this pivot. Our province is better off for those investments and we’re going to continue to follow the advice of the chief medical officer felt to keep families safe and keep these community cases down.

Speaker 3: (26:45)
Last question.

Speaker 4: (26:47)
From Rob Ferguson at the Toronto Star, please go ahead.

Chris Glover: (26:52)
Hi, Premier. Just to get back at some of the stuff that Laura and Travis were asking earlier. It was just a few weeks ago that you increased indoor dining in areas not in lockdown, indoor dining-

Chris Glover: (27:03)
… indoor dining, in areas not in lockdown, indoor dining capacity. And week after said that today would be the first day in Toronto and Mississauga and other lockdown areas that people could get haircuts, and yet here we are. So I would like an explanation. And I think a lot of people would like this explanation on what happened. A lot of health experts, doctors were saying that those moves were bad moves, and yet you persisted and here we are. So what went wrong? And have you learned a lesson from that?

Premier Doug Ford: (27:36)
Well, again, when you say, “What went wrong?” I don’t look at it that way. I’m sorry, Rob. Let’s go back. It was just over a week ago, we were at 3000 cases. And I never make a decision myself, ever. I’ll take the responsibility, but let’s start off with the chief medical officer, and his advice moving forward, of Ontario. We had the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. de Villa of Toronto saying, “Move forward.” We have the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Loh, of Peel, saying, “Move forward.” We had the Chief Medical Officer of York. So those are the regions. Then, I had Mayor Tory agreeing, with in-depth conversations, Mayor Bonnie Crombie, agreeing, Mayor Thompson from Caledon, Mayor Patrick Brown, all the mayors in York wanting to open up, because the numbers that we saw, they were staying flat.

Premier Doug Ford: (28:37)
But it goes back to how quickly this variant changes. And we’ve never hesitated, ever hesitated, to move quickly and rapidly and decisively, which we did. And keep in mind too, in saying what you were just saying, don’t forget the vast majority of the greater Toronto area was still in gray lockdown. So it wasn’t like there was a big, huge shift by any means. So, that’s the answer, very simply. But, when we see the variant move, we moved with it, as we have right from the beginning.

Premier Doug Ford: (29:19)
Again, we go back to our two-part plan. We’re getting people vaccinated at a rapid race, more than anyone in the country with 3.3 million vaccines. We’re going into communities and into workplaces. All weekend I was on the phone, I’m sure with other ministers too, reaching out to large employers and hot areas. Making sure that the public health units and those areas are prepared to go in there, along with the hospitals, which they’ve done an absolute, incredible job getting vaccines into people’s arms. So, that’s what we’re doing.

Premier Doug Ford: (29:57)
Just think, again, Rob, if we just sit still, and keep the exact same position the whole time, it’s just not realistic. It just isn’t. It’s easy, and I’m not saying you Rob, but it’s easy for people to sit back and say, “Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done this, done that.” Walk a mile in someone’s shoes. And then you’ll find out, you’ll wake up real quick, like you got hit over the head with a sledgehammer when you’re on the call till midnight, every single night, all day long, getting advice. And it’s never the premier, or Doug Ford sitting in some corner making a decision. There’s hundreds and hundreds of people that are part of every single decision that we make down here. So I listen. At the end of the day, I’ll listen to a chief medical officer and I’ll never waiver. I never have, and I never will waiver.

Speaker 5: (30:48)
Follow up?

Chris Glover: (30:50)
Okay. Thank you, Premier for that. I just want to switch gears a little bit over to Dr. Williams and perhaps Minister Elliott. Are the surge in cases we’ve seen that, they really perked up above 4,000 on Friday, is that all Easter weekend? Do you think there was something before that driving it, anything in particular? And as well for the 350 new ICU beds that are going to be created somehow, where are the doctors and nurses coming from for that? Because I do keep hearing from the medical community that you can’t just walk into an ICU as a regular nurse and have that level of expertise that an ICU nurse has.

Dr. Williams: (31:36)
Well, I’ll start off. And then I can hand things over to Minister Elliot to comment on the human health resource issue.

Dr. Williams: (31:43)
You raise a very good point is over the Easter weekend, our numbers stayed around the low three thousands, but then we found it jumped up. And I think what happened is that some people who were taking some time off during that time and the data entry did not come in consistently, so it went up very fast to over 4,000. It’s staying at that 4,000 level right now. To see the impact of the Easter weekend, while we have been sticking with seven to 10 days, we need this week to see what the full impact is there. We look at the data and it’s well over nearly 8% positivity, with lower volume. And our volumes of testing have stayed up more than we had before.

Dr. Williams: (32:26)
So I think we’re seeing a number of things happening. I think as far as the cases, it has been challenging to notice that normally it’s a delay when we start to see the impact on our ICU for a number of days. It’s rising faster and sometimes quicker than we had seen with the case counts in that level there, because some people are going to the hospital who had not been tested, who are identified in the hospital for the first time of being COVID positive.

Dr. Williams: (32:51)
That’s a shift in the behavior of the variant and healthcare providers have noted that, and the amount of severity they’re coming in with already, rather than a graduating increase in issues and symptoms up to that time. So, we saw those numbers that normally take a week to happen, climbing up in five to six days. And that just shows you what the variants that we’re dealing with, and the impact on our at-risk populations. As far as the human health resource issues in there, I know I’ll leave that to Minister Elliott may want to comment on that, as the whole sector has been planning and working hard at this over the last two or three weeks to try anticipate. And maybe some comments that Minister Elliot would like to make on that behalf.

Minister of Health: (33:32)
Well, you’re right, Rob, with your question, that not every nurse is an intensive care nurse. There are years of training, just working in the wards and working in a hospital. And then there’s extra training that needs to be taken to become an intensive care nurse. We are training more people to do that, but the reality is right now, we don’t have that time to wait until they’re finished.

Minister of Health: (34:01)
So what we are doing by canceling and ramping down some of the scheduled surgeries and procedures, is making sure that the staff in the hospitals that would otherwise be in intensive care, dealing with patients who’ve just had surgeries, are now going to be dealing with COVID patients. We’re moving everyone else up, who is able to work in that capacity. And then we’re going to be filling in, in the other areas of the hospital, with, in some cases it will be entire teams that may be redeployed from other parts of the province that don’t have high levels of COVID. Or it may be a redeployment from Ontario Health, the former LHIN’s. Some of it will be the student experience, which we have already set in motion. There’s more people that can come online with that. And we’re looking at other nurses perhaps who have been out of practice for a number of years, making sure that they’re qualified to go in as well.

Minister of Health: (34:53)
So, there are many different areas that we’re looking at right now to make sure that we have the staffing employed in our hospitals and in the right places.

Speaker 5: (35:02)
Thanks everyone.

Premier Doug Ford: (35:03)
Thank everyone.

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