Ontario invests $150 million on rural broadband, long-term care home investigations begin

In today’s provincial address from Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Ford government, announcements regarding Ontario’s status during the COVID-19 pandemic were addressed to the media.

Here is a breakdown of what was discussed.

Rural broadband investments

Premier Ford announced that an investment of $150 million will be made for the expansion of broadband internet and cellular services in the province.

Ford has said that “reliable high-speed internet is no longer a luxury” when announcing the funding. The money being invested is part of the $315 million plan for improved cell service and internet previously announced in July 2019.

Detailed in the official release, the province says that the money will go towards a portion of approved projects that were pitched by telecom companies, First Nation communities, municipal governments, and non-profit organizations.

The Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott says that “we all deserve the opportunity to join the economy of the 21st century.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce had proposed that the federal government help support the broadband expansion over the weekend, and has said that the government will also connect all Ontario high schools to broadband connection by September of this year and that all elementary schools will have broadband by 2021.

Second stage of reopening

The 338 new coronavirus cases reported today, June 3, represent a 1.2% increase in total cases. The province recorded a total of 29,047 confirmed cases as of June 3, of which 22,811 cases have resolved, 2,312 have died. There are 3,924 active cases in the province.

The cases in Ontario had risen above 400 cases for the last two days. There’s also been increasing concern on growing infections among farm and migrant workers.

 At least 164 workers from a farm near Simcoe, Ont. have tested positive for the virus.

With the number of cases fluctuating, Ontario cannot declare the date for a second stage until a consistent decline in cases over two-to-four weeks occurs.

Ministers faced questions today about how reopening will proceed, including whether it could be carried out differently in different regions as Premier Ford had said he was considering regional approach last week.

Premier Ford has announced that Ontario health officials are currently in talks about the province’s second stage reopening and that he hopes to be able to bring it forward next week.

Ford has also said that despite the lockdown being extended to June 30, the reopening process will not be slowed down.

The premier told reporters that outbreaks among migrant workers “shouldn’t affect the rest of the community,” and wouldn’t impact how reopening moves forward.

“We’ll go in there and we’ll work with the farmers,” said Ford, saying that the province has already given farmers $2 million to buy workers PPE and that inspections continue.

One question was asked about the possibility of restaurant patios being reopened in stage two, to which Ford said that it’s something that he is looking into and that health officials will make decisions regarding things of that nature within the week.

Health Minister Christine Elliott addressed social distancing during this address and has gone on to say that the government is currently considering the possibility of allowing people outside of one’s household to be included in the social gatherings one can have. No definitive answer or announcement was made.

Long-term care home investigations begin

The provincial patient ombudsman announced yesterday, June 2, that it was launching an investigation into the province’s long-term care homes. A similar investigation was announced by the Ontario Ombudsman one day earlier.

In a news released issued June 3, the Ontario Long Term Care Association asked the federal government for a number of supports including to help pay for more resources and staff in advance of an anticipated second wave of COVID-19 cases, more personal protective equipment and testing and capital investment to build and re-develop long-term care homes.

A question was raised to Health minister Elliott about what will happen to the province’s long-term care homes once the Canadian Armed Forces and hospitals are eventually pulled out. 

 “Our first priority is making sure that the very vulnerable populations in our long-term care homes are well provided for,” said Elliott. 

Health minister Elliott also added that the province will continue to maintain hospital support in the homes and continue the resumption of delayed surgeries simultaneously.

“So if there is one hospital in a region that is providing support to a long-term care home, there may be another hospital that is able to proceed with surgeries, and surgeons may be moved,” she said.

According to the provincial report on June 3, there are 94 active outbreaks in long-term care homes and 203 that are now considered resolved, and that 1,661 of Ontario’s deaths were long-term care home

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