Ontario issues stay-at-home order except for essentials

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Significant number of PSWs refuse their COVID vaccine
Author of the article:Brian Lilley
Publishing date:Mar 10, 2021 • 1 hour ago • 2 minute read • comment bubbleJoin the conversation
An employee shows the Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital in New York December 21, 2020.
An employee shows the Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Valley Stream hospital in New York December 21, 2020. PHOTO BY EDUARDO MUNOZ /REUTERS
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It looks like Premier Doug Ford let the cat out of the bag when it comes to some health-care workers refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine offered to them.

Earlier this week, the Ontario Ministry of Health responded to a question from this newspaper by saying that they don’t track health-care workers who take, or don’t take, the COVID vaccine they are offered.


Turns out that’s not true and the government does have some detailed numbers.

Responding to questions in the legislature from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Ford admitted that he is concerned about some health workers not taking the vaccine.

“My big concern, there’s probably 40% (who) may not get the vaccine. We’re encouraging them to come and get it done. We have sites all over the province,” Ford said.

Ford’s office and other government officials later sought to qualify the premier’s statements.

While some long-term care homes have seen high refusal rates, and could be as high as 40% refusal, the provincial average is below what the premier said. According to government statistics, 70% of LTC workers have had at least one shot and the majority have had two shots.

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There have been concerns from the beginning of the provincial vaccination campaign that certain cultural groups would not be as welcoming of the vaccine as others.

Governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels have sought out so-called “ambassadors” to reach out to people within their own ethnic, religious or cultural communities to take a vaccine when offered.

Cultural factors may be what is at play here.

A study released by Statistics Canada on COVID-19 showed that 77% of black Canadians said they were very unlikely to take a COVID vaccine.

That study, conducted last September, showed that except for those identifying as Latin American, 66%, or Filipino, 58%, most ethnic groups were closer to 50% in saying they were unlikely to get a vaccine.

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Vaccine hesitancy has fallen across the board since that time but both black and Filipino Canadians are heavily represented in the health-care sector. Statistics Canada said that both groups are “overrepresented” in that field compared to their percentage of the population.

Bottom line, the provincial government has their work cut out for them in convincing people who work with the most vulnerable, that getting vaccinated is in their best interests.
 

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Ford sparks uproar accusing NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa of vaccine queue jumping
Mamakwa says he had been invited to help counter vaccine hesitancy in the community

Author of the article:Antonella Artuso
Publishing date:Mar 11, 2021 • 2 hours ago • 2 minute read • comment bubble78 Comments
An image posted to Twitter by NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa of him receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Sandy Lake First Nation on March 1, 2021.
An image posted to Twitter by NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa of him receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Sandy Lake First Nation on March 1, 2021.
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Premier Doug Ford accused NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa of vaccine queue jumping, sparking an uproar and demands for an apology at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

“Not only did Ornge fly in (to remote Indigenous communities), but the member flew in too to get his vaccine, so thank you for doing that and kind of jumping the line,” Ford said during question period. “I talked to a few chiefs that were pretty upset about that, for flying into a community that he doesn’t belong to, but that’s here nor there.”


The comments drew sharp criticism from other provincial politicians who labelled Ford a bully.

Mamakwa explained he had been invited by local leaders to help counter vaccine hesitancy in the community.

“I thought it was a lack of understanding but actually it’s a lack of respect to Indigenous people,” Mamakwa said of Ford’s comments, which he called damaging to the vaccination efforts.


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Mamakwa posted details and a photo of the vaccination on his twitter feed on March 7.

“On March 1, 2021, I was invited by Sandy Lake First Nation to receive my 2nd dose of Moderna vaccine. I was there to promote vaccine uptake in fly-in First Nations. Meegwetch to Dr. Suzanne Shoush for the shot,” Mamkwa tweeted.


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His home community is Kingfisher Lake First Nation where he said 97% of eligible members had been vaccinated as of Feb. 26.

Mamakwa had been questioning the Premier on his government’s plan to vaccinate Indigenous people who live off-reserve.


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NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said vaccine hesitancy is a reality in many communities due to generations of systemic racism, historic trauma and poor treatment by the health system.

“(Mamakwa) stepped up, he led by example,” Horwath said. “The Premier rose in his place to insult the Member and undermine the work of First Nations leadership and people in fighting COVID-19.”

Horwath called on Ford to apologize.


Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner grew teary-eyed as he talked about the incident.

“For the Premier to accuse one of the most respected members of the Legislature of queue jumping when he was just doing his job and showing leadership I think is completely inappropriate,” said Schreiner, who also called on Ford to apologize.

aartuso@postmedia.com
 

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WARMINGTON: City of Toronto staffer and others flock across freedom border
Author of the article:Joe Warmington
Publishing date:Mar 11, 2021 • 17 hours ago • 3 minute read • comment bubble59 Comments
A City of Toronto vehicle sits on the Vaughan side on Steeles Ave W.,. at Dufferin St. on Thursday, March 11, 2021.
A City of Toronto vehicle sits on the Vaughan side on Steeles Ave W.,. at Dufferin St. on Thursday, March 11, 2021. PHOTO BY ERNEST DOROSZUK /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
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Even locked down City of Toronto workers are heading to the land of freedom and opportunity called York Region.

But this City of Toronto car was hardly the only representation at the corner of Steeles Ave. W. and Dufferin St., which has become one of those bizarre border points. There are so many great places to patronize on both sides of the street.


However, on one side the dining rooms remained closed, while on the other up to ten can dine in.

In this tale of two Steeles, it seems COVID-19 understands it’s a higher risk on the Toronto side. The whole thing is just so weird!

You can get takeout from either side of the DMZ. But if you want to sit down for a meal, it’s only in York. Ironically from the window of Wimpy’s Diner you can see the Cora’s, so breakfast or burgers at Wimpy’s it is.


“It is so good to see all of my customers again,” manager and server Candy, who has been at Wimpy’s for five years and relies on tips to raise her young family, said Thursday. “We really missed everybody.”

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There was a lineup to get in and Candy takes extra time to sterilize each booth and encourages strict social distancing measures.

“We are only allowed to have ten in at a time,” she said.

Candy is happy to have customers dining in again at Wimpy’s Diner located at Steeles Ave. W., and Dufferin St. in Vaughan, Ont. on Thursday, March 11, 2021.
Candy is happy to have customers dining in again at Wimpy’s Diner located at Steeles Ave. W., and Dufferin St. in Vaughan, Ont. on Thursday, March 11, 2021. PHOTO BY ERNEST DOROSZUK /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
That’s ten more than they are allowed to have 50 metres away in locked down Toronto.

Customers Ruth Gould and Barbara Zigler were just at North York General Hospital receiving their vaccine as part of the over-80 class.

“They did such a good job at the clinic,” Ruth said. “We were so relieved to get that done. We wanted to go out somewhere to get lunch.”

“(So) we headed up north,” Barbara added.

The City of Toronto city was not the only clue that many other did the same.

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The absurdness of these silly, uneven lockdown rules were on full display. While the popular Montana’s had no one inside, directly across the street 168 Sushi Asian Buffet was at capacity.

It’s just dumb. And unfair to Toronto.

But Ontario, Peel Region and Toronto public health officials don’t seem prepared to budge. But even they have to see how ludicrous it is to have different rules across the street. It’s kind of difficult to enforce people daring to enter York Region when one of Toronto’s own bylaw officers is in the no-go zone as well.

“The vehicle in question is assigned to an inspector with the Toronto Sign Bylaw Unit,” explained Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross. “He is responsible for the North York area and conducting inspections along the Toronto side of Steeles Avenue. He indicated to us that he went to a McDonald’s restaurant in the vicinity of Steeles and Dufferin for lunch, where he ordered his food at the drive through and ate in the car. I hope that helps clarify this matter.”

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Okay. But he ordered his lunch in Toronto and ate it in York while taking a break from busting others?

Alrighty then!

Hopefully he didn’t bring the virus to York? Or bring it back to Toronto?

Of course, normally this would be no big deal. The car, after all, was only a few metres outside of Toronto. Nobody anywhere should be in trouble for this when you consider the corporate box stores are essentially given the COVID pass.

Instead, Toronto and Peel should immediately be released from the grey zone and join places like York, Halton and Durham Regions in the red.

Let small businesses and restaurants have a fighting chance at survival and allow the staff to earn some much-needed cash. If this does not happen soon, nobody is going to be able to stop people from getting out of a dead city for a taste of normal.

jwarmington@postmedia.com
 

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Fired bureaucrat claims Ontario to blame if $11M in COVID relief aid embezzled
Allegedly lax security measures allowed "widespread misappropriation" of money intended to defray cost of kids learning at home

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Colin Perkel
Publishing date:Mar 12, 2021 • 13 minutes ago • 3 minute read • comment bubble5 Comments
The Ontario legislative building at Queen's Park in Toronto.
The Ontario legislative building at Queen's Park in Toronto. PHOTO BY FILE PHOTO /Getty Images
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A former senior civil servant accused of embezzling at least $11 million in COVID-19 relief money now argues the Ontario government is to blame for any losses it suffered.

In a statement of defence filed in Superior Court this week, Sanjay Madan blames the province for allegedly lax security measures that allowed “widespread misappropriation” of money intended to defray the cost of children learning at home.

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“The plaintiff knew, or ought to have known, that unscrupulous individuals, including potentially its own employees, might try to exploit weaknesses in its security measures to take money,” Madan alleges.

“Having anticipated such threats, (the government) ought to have taken steps to prevent them, or reduce any losses arising from them.”


The province, in an unproven civil action, is suing Madan, his wife and two sons for $11 million related to the COVID support program. It also alleges he made millions more in a kickback scheme related to contractor hiring that began years ago.

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According to the lawsuit, Madan, who also goes by Sadanand Madan, and his family allegedly opened thousands of bank accounts between April and May last year. They then allegedly deposited thousands of cheques made out to fictitious applicants under the support program.

In his untested filing, Madan argues the province failed to take steps to mitigate any losses.

Among other things, he alleges the government hired “incompetent or marginal employees” to run the Support for Families program and failed to put safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized transactions or detect unusual transactions.

The omissions, he argues, include ensuring names on a bank account matched the person requesting the payments, and limiting the number of payments to one account.

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“Such misappropriation occurred not because of anything the defendant Sanjay Madan did or didn’t do, but because of the plaintiff’s own negligence,” he argues.

Madan, who had a senior IT role and helped develop a computer application related to the COVID benefit, was fired in November. His wife and sons all worked for the province also in information technology.

Madan’s relatives have said in sworn affidavits they knew nothing of his purported wrongdoing.

In his new filing, Madan contends his family had no part in any alleged scheme to steal any relief money.

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“The defendants Ujjawal Madan, Shalini Madan and Chinmaya Madan did not participate with the defendant Sanjay Madan in any of his activities in issue,” he says. “They are entirely innocent.”

He also maintains any money he did take has been repaid. While the courts have frozen Madan’s extensive assets, the money has not in fact been repaid, a government lawyer has said.


The province also alleges Madan received $10 million in secret commissions for steering government consulting contracts to certain companies he or an associate controlled.

Madan, owner of several named defendant companies, denies those allegations, arguing he followed normal procurement rules and his work actually saved the province money.

“The plaintiff not only suffered no loss arising from the alleged ‘kickback scheme’ but in fact saved money by selecting the highest score bidder in an open bidding contest,” he says.

In any event, the alleged kickback scheme cannot now give rise to a claim because it operated more than two years ago, he says.

Shalini Madan is suing the province for wrongful dismissal, while her sons, who resigned from their jobs, are also suing the government over being named as defendants in the suit against their father.

No criminal charges have been laid in the case.
 

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'WHAT THE F--- IS THIS WORLD?': Woman clashes with Toronto grocery workers over mask bylaw
The woman told staff at the Sweet Potato in the Junction the indoor mask bylaw infringed on her human rights

Author of the article:Jenny Yuen
Publishing date:Mar 12, 2021 • 19 hours ago • 4 minute read • comment bubble337 Comments
A woman filmed herself arguing with staff at the Sweet Potato grocery store in the Junction on Monday over Toronto indoor mask bylaw.
A woman filmed herself arguing with staff at the Sweet Potato grocery store in the Junction on Monday over Toronto indoor mask bylaw. PHOTO BY SCREENGRAB /BLOGTO
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A woman who refused to wear a mask filmed herself as she clashed with staff in a Junction grocery store over the city’s indoor mask bylaw.

The video, first posted on 6ixBuzzTV and then on BlogTO, showed a red-haired woman walking down the street saying, “Here I f—— go,” aloud before entering the Sweet Potato — a shop at near Keele and Dundas Sts. she claims she “used to get all my organic groceries, spend all my money.”

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“Unfortunately, they don’t want to honour my human rights anymore,” the woman said, already sounding irate.

When an employee approaches the woman and informs her she needs to be wearing a mask inside the store, the woman responds, “That actually goes against the bylaw and my human rights,” to which the worker explains they have options for curbside pickup and delivery if ordering online.


“So, I’m on my period, and I need to pick up tampons, and the earliest curbside pickup you have was for 7 p.m. this evening,” the woman said.

When the employee tells her she can call and a staff member can grab it off the shelf for her and she can pick up outside, the woman asks if the workers can read the bylaw sign on the door.

Another worker also chimes in about the mask bylaw policy and describes how they have options for those who cannot wear a mask.

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“That’s illegal, that’s what you guys don’t understand,” said the woman. “Well, then I’m going to leave cash at the front and then I’m going to walk out with my tampons.”

The first worker informs her there is a pin pad where they can complete the purchase outside the doors of the store.

“Just so you know, you guys are going against my human rights and the bylaw,” the woman continues, her tone sharpening. “Do you understand that? Do you?”

As one of the employees asks the woman to step outside the entrance, the woman presses her whether she has a business licence.

“You cannot tell me that I cannot come into your store,” she said. “I understand you have other options available for me but you have rights and responsibilities as a business …. you cannot tell me that I’m trespassing, that I’m coming in here illegally, because you are actually the ones breaking the law.”

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At one point, she mistakenly notes violating the bylaw costs $750 when it’s actually $1,000 in Toronto. The province can also fine an individual, under the Reopening Ontario Act, up to $100,000 and a corporation up to $10 million.

“Do you actually know (masks) are doing more harm than good? I know you’re doing your best, but your best is affecting my human rights at this point,” the woman said.

Once the transaction is over with the portable pin pad, the woman films herself leaving the property, ending the roughly seven-minute interaction.

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“Got my tampons,” she said, clearly frustrated. “What the f— is this world, guys? … I’m going to sue the f— out of these people. F— them. Stupid f—— rules.”

In Instagram stories on her @glowingmamafit account, Stephanie Sibbio identifies herself as the customer in the store. The Toronto Sun reached out to her for comment, but didn’t receive a response Friday.

“Some people think I’m very angry about the BlogTO article,” she said on Instagram.

“Hundreds of trolls are trolling me and calling my phone. It’s a smear campaign … I don’t care how I’m viewed in the media. The fact that they’re bringing me up in the media makes it very clear that they are afraid of people like me, the waves that we’re making, so they want to deter people from following suit.”

Brian Thompson, Toronto Public Health’s associate director of Healthy Environments, said public health will visit the grocery store to determine compliance with mask and face covering requirements under the ROA.

When asked whether those who violate the indoor bylaw could be retroactively ticketed, he said, “TPH would need to assess this on a case-by-case basis.”


Midori Miyamoto, the marketing manager for the Sweet Potato, confirmed the incident took place Monday around 1 p.m.

Police weren’t called following the incident and the woman did not return to the store after the video ended, she said.

“I think (our workers) were really great in terms of staying really flexible, but firm of our policy,” she said. “It’s true we have a strengthened mask policy in our stores, but we offer all kinds of accommodations if you won’t or can’t wear a mask. What accessibility looks like in February 2020 is a different reality than March 2021.”

Miyamoto said “firm and clear directives” from the government would help frontline grocery store workers when they run into situations like this.

jyuen@postmedia.com
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Peel Region staff facing increased harassment from residents: Officials
Incidents include the use of racial slurs, CAO says

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Mar 15, 2021 • 2 hours ago • 1 minute read • comment bubble12 Comments
Janice Baker, CAO of Region of Peel
Janice Baker, CAO of Region of Peel PHOTO BY @BAKERJANICEM /Twitter
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Officials in Peel Region are sounding the alarm over what they describe as growing harassment and discrimination towards public employees.

In a statement released Monday, the region’s chief administrative officer says there has been a rise in such incidents both in person and over the phone.


Janice Baker says the incidents include the use of racial slurs.

She urged residents not to take out their frustrations over the COVID-19 pandemic on regional employees, noting staff are working to keep the community safe.


Baker says the employees facing harassment are also feeling the same stress and pressure as other residents due to the health crisis, and have worked “extraordinary long hours” for more than a year.

She asked that anyone who disagrees with regional policies or how services are being delivered provide feedback online instead of lashing out at employees.
 

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Ontario nursing homes losing staff to Amazon, film industry: Association
Pay increases have not increased the numbers of qualified workers

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Mar 16, 2021 • 1 day ago • 2 minute read • comment bubble7 Comments
A senior is aided by a care worker.
A senior is aided by a care worker. Getty Images
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Long-term care in Ontario is losing staff to other industries that, due to the pandemic, are hiring health-care workers for infection prevention and testing supports, a group representing more than 70 per cent of the province’s homes said Tuesday.

Donna Duncan, the CEO of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, said the staffing crisis in the province’s seniors homes is worsening.


“Never before would we lose our regulated health professionals and infection prevention and control specialists to companies like Amazon, to airports or film and television studios,” Duncan said.

“As other parts of our economy required infection prevention and control and testing supports, they are drawing from the health-care system and draining from long-term care.”

Addressing the staffing crisis in long-term care is one of the association’s four recommendations to the Ontario government ahead of next week’s budget.

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“We know that we need to move quickly to bring new people in,” Duncan said.


“Our long-term care home staff are traumatized, demoralized, stigmatized, and they are exhausted, not just emotionally but physically. This is very, very heavy work.”

Severe staffing shortages have been cited repeatedly to the province’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission as one of the primary reasons the disease had such devastating effects in nursing homes.

Duncan said money alone won’t solve the problem, as pay increases last summer have not increased the numbers of qualified workers.

“We need to find a way to change how we talk about long-term care,” Duncan said.

“We need to lift the stigma to motivate people to work in the sector because right now people don’t want to work there.”

She said the association has a task force that is working on figuring out how to solve the staffing problem.

The association applauded the province’s recent announcement to offer paid tuition for 6,000 personal support worker students to inject new staff into the industry.


She said they also need to incentivize nurses to remain in long-term care homes as well as to attract new nurses.

The association also recommended the province move urgently to physically rebuild older homes.

It also said the homes’ accountability needs to be revamped to also take into account quality-of-life measures, not just compliance with regulations.

The association also said there needs to be better integration with the overall health-care system in Ontario.

COVID-19 has killed more than 3,700 residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes.
 

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End of Ontario's COVID hydro break means bigger bills
Customers using 700 kWh per month on TOU pricing will see bills rise by roughly $15/mth

Author of the article:Antonella Artuso
Publishing date:Mar 17, 2021 • 21 hours ago • 2 minute read • comment bubble21 Comments
A hydro tower in Toronto.
A hydro tower in Toronto. Canadian Press file
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Ontario electricity customers may be in for a “shock” when they open their latest bills.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) estimates customers using 700 kWh per month and on time-of-use (TOU) pricing will see bills rise by roughly $15 a month to about $115 on average.


Until Feb. 22, hydro customers had been paying a flat 8.5 cents/kWh — a rate subsidized by the Ontario government while the province was under a stay-at-home order.

TOU customers are now paying 17.6 cents/kWh for on-peak electricity during the day, 11.9 cents/kWh for mid-peak and 8.5 cents/kWh for off-peak, which is overnights and weekends.

NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns said he expects to get quite a few calls from constituents once they see their bills.

“People have been hurting and so controlling the bills really made a difference to them,” Tabuns said Tuesday. “And not surprisingly, if the support for the pandemic is removed, then people are going to get a shock.”

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Large parts of the province remain under restrictions with many Ontarians working and learning from home, unable to avoid expensive on-peak electricity prices, he said.

“Places like Thunder Bay have gone back into lockdown,” Tabuns said. “The pandemic is still going on. We’ve only got a small percentage of the population that’s vaccinated.”

Alexander Puddifant, a spokesperson for Energy Minister Greg Rickford, said the government provided emergency electricity relief for all Ontarians during the extended COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.

During those times, Ontario electricity customers paid a flat, off-peak price for their electricity round the clock.


“As the stay-at-home order has been lifted across the province, we have moved all customers back to the standard tiered and time-of-use rates as of Feb. 23, 2021,” he said in an email. “We continue to keep electricity bills low for Ontario households and small businesses through the Ontario Electricity Rebate (OER).”

The government has introduced a choice for Ontario hydro customers, allowing them to pick between TOU and tiered pricing, he said.

“For customers struggling to pay their electricity bills we have created the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) to offer customers a one-time payment to help pay down electricity bill debt incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “We have recently expanded eligibility for the CEAP program to make sure more families and small businesses can access this support.”

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Hydro corridor in Pickering, Ont. on Wednesday October 23, 2019.
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The Ontario Progressive Conservatives, led by Premier Doug Ford, made a commitment during the previous election campaign to cut hydro bills by 12%, Tabuns said.

But rather than seeing a drop, bills have been going up, he said.

aartuso@postmedia.com
 

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'BEING SHAMED': Toronto sex shops take fight to be declared essential business by city, province to court
The shops claim they fall under stores that sell safety supplies and medical aids

Author of the article:Jenny Yuen
Publishing date:Mar 18, 2021 • 23 hours ago • 3 minute read • comment bubble6 Comments
The owner of the Nookie and co-owner of the Stag Shop have filed an application at the Superior Court of Justice against the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, arguing their sex shops should be deemed essential as they fall under "safety supplies store" category.
The owner of the Nookie and co-owner of the Stag Shop have filed an application at the Superior Court of Justice against the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, arguing their sex shops should be deemed essential as they fall under "safety supplies store" category. PHOTO BY SCREENGRAB /GOOGLE MAPS
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Two Toronto sex shops are taking the city and province to court, arguing they should be recognized as an essential business as the city remains in the grey-lockdown zone.

Veronica Kazoleas, owner of The Nookie on College St., claims she called Ontario’s Stop the Spread business line in late November and was told she was allowed to keep her business open, but she and her employee were then handed a total of five summons in December by city bylaw officers for remaining open.



Kazoleas, along with Petra LoBrutto of The Stag Shop, which operates 27 locations across Ontario, filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court on Jan. 13.

The businesses — whose inventory includes sex toys, condoms, prostate massagers and vaginal dilators — claim they fall under the category of “safety supply stores” and “businesses that sell, rent or repair … medical devices, aids and/or supplies,” which were permitted to be open for in-store shopping from Nov. 23 to Dec. 25 and open by appointment only with curbside pick-up beginning Dec. 26 until now, according to the filing.

“The Applicants retail a variety of adult products focused on the promotion of safe sex and sexual health,” states the application. “It is a fallacy to suggest that sexual wellness products do not fall into the category of ‘medical devices, aids and/or supplies.'”

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Kazoleas and LoBrutto want, according to the filing, a declaration they were allowed to open during these periods, as well as payment of costs “on a substantial indemnity basis.”

“Shame on them,” Kazoleas said Thursday. “They are slutshaming me. The people that rely on my store, are by association, being shamed. Trans people cannot express their identity without access to products at these shops. There’s medical research that shows that people with pelvic cancers have to use dilators if they want to regain their pelvic floor health.”

LoBrutto could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

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The city, in its factum, states the applicants’ shops “don’t qualify as the limited kind of essential business” of the Stage 1 restrictions, “despite the applicants’ efforts to stretch those definitions to match the products they offer,” arguing this application should be dismissed. It notes in the document safety supply stores sell protective gear for common hazards, such as helmets and goggles.

It adds in the factum, given there are currently five charges against the Nookie, “the relief sought by the applicant The Nookie is an improper request” and is “an abuse of process.”

“While condoms, dilators and other products sold by the Nookie may have sexual health purposes … selling a small percentage of those kinds of products in a store that is overwhelmingly marketed and operating as a ‘pleasure shop’ or ‘adult fun store’ … does not transform that shop into an essential store,” the city said in court documents.

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The province acknowledges in its factum that while Health Canada “happens to” regulate the safety of a handful of products these shops sell, “and sex toys are mentioned in some academic articles as having a medical use,” to give such a broad and “strained” interpretation of what a safety supply store is “defies common sense.”

“It also opens the floodgates to numerous types of retailers that would seek to open on an assertion they fall within a category not intended to apply to them,” the province’s documents state.

City of Toronto spokesperson Andrea Gonsalves and Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Brian Gray both said Thursday they don’t comment on matters before the courts.

The next court appearance on this case is scheduled April 7.

jyuen@postmedia.com
 

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Nearly every India-Toronto flight this month had COVID-positive passengers
21 out of 65 YYZ-bound flights from Delhi carried passengers that later tested positive for COVID-19

Author of the article:Bryan Passifiume
Publishing date:Mar 19, 2021 • 1 hour ago • 2 minute read • comment bubble6 Comments
A passenger is covered head to toe at the International Arrivals area at Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.
A passenger is covered head to toe at the International Arrivals area at Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. PHOTO BY ERNEST DOROSZUK /Toronto Sun
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Flights from India continue to be Canada’s top source of international passengers testing positive for COVID-19.

And data provided by Health Canada reveals nearly all of the twice-daily flights between Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and Toronto Pearson Airport carried passengers infected with COVID-19.

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Of the 106 COVID-infected flights that landed in Canada since March 4, 30 originated from Delhi — nine landing at Vancouver and 21 at YYZ.

Health Canada doesn’t indicate how many passengers tested positive on each flight, instead providing three-row ‘ranges’ of where an infected person sat on the plane.

While seven of the 21 Toronto-bound Delhi flights list the affected rows as ‘unknown,’ the rest show a minimum of six rows impacted by infected passengers, suggesting each flight carried more than one case.

Air Canada 43 on March 9 showed nearly half of the 42-row Boeing 787 Dreamliner affected, including the entire business-class and premium economy cabins, and all but eight rows of economy.

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Air India 187 on March 13 reported 22 rows of the Boeing 777-300ER’s 35-row economy cabin impacted.

Sixty-five infected International flights landed at Toronto over the past two weeks, including six flights each from Dubai and Istanbul, five from Doha, four from Frankfurt, three each from Addis Ababa and Kingston, Jamaica, two from Cairo, Amsterdam and Panama City, and one each from Islamabad, London Heathrow and Mexico City.



” /]

Infected US flights have dropped off, amounting to just four over the past two weeks — two from Atlanta and one each from Detroit and Fort Lauderdale.

Measures taken by the Canadian government to stem the flow of COVID-19 arriving in Canada by air seem to have little effect.

As of Feb. 14, air travellers over the age of five must provide proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test before being allowed to board Canada-bound flights.

That requirement was extended to those entering via land border crossings on Feb. 21, the same day Canadian air travellers returning from abroad were required — at their own expense — to quarantine for three days in one of 20 government-approved hotels.

Passengers are also required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival.

On Thursday, Health Canada told the Sun data on those test results weren’t yet available.

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@bryanpassifiume
 

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COVID DOO: Hairy dilemma continues for Toronto and Peel residents
Author of the article:Antonella Artuso
Publishing date:Mar 22, 2021 • 15 hours ago • 1 minute read • comment bubble19 Comments
GETTY
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It could be weeks yet before Toronto and Peel Region residents get a legal haircut in their home municipalities.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott called it unfortunate that some hairstylists have begun offering their services privately to clients.


The province is in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants of concern (VOC), she said.

“What we’re asking people to do is please, be a bit more patient,” Elliott said Monday. “Personal services like hair salons are more dangerous because people are in closer contact and that increases the risk of transmission … another few weeks you will be able to get your hair cut.”

Elliott said she’s also been waiting a long time for a haircut.

Hair salon owners have previously told the Toronto Sun that they were experts in infection prevention prior to the pandemic, and warned the same cleanliness standards would be not be met if hairdressers and barbers went to people’s homes to avoid lockdown measures.

Ford said he has heard public complaints about the closed hair salons.


The premier has refused to get a haircut while in lockdown.

“I’d go to the dog clippers right now,” Ford said. “I’ve got more gel on here than you can shake a stick at.

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“Yes, we have the toughest restrictions anywhere in North America right now, but we do have to be cautious,” he said.

aartuso@postmedia.com
 

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'APPEARED TO BE FRAUDULENT': Traveller allegedly produced fake COVID test result at Pearson airport
Man, 45, from Edmonton, charged criminally

Author of the article:Chris Doucette
Publishing date:Mar 24, 2021 • 1 day ago • 2 minute read • 9 Comments
Health workers at the arrivals COVID-19 testing area at Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport on January 26, 2021.
Health workers at the arrivals COVID-19 testing area at Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport on January 26, 2021. PHOTO BY ERNEST DOROSZUK /Toronto Sun
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A 45-year-old man has been charged for allegedly presenting a phony COVID-19 document after landing on an international flight at Toronto Pearson Airport over the weekend.

Peel Regional Police say officers were called in to assist the Canada Border Services Agency around 4 p.m. on Sunday after the traveller’s COVID-19 test result document was flagged.


“The CBSA officer was conducting an inspection check of various entry documents, including a negative COVID-19 document,” police said in a news release. “It appeared to be fraudulent, and Public Health reviewed it.”

The Edmonton man was arrested and charged with unlawfully did knowingly use a forged document.

He was held for a bail hearing, which was held in Brampton court on Monday.


“He was subsequently released from custody, with conditions, and returned to CBSA at Toronto Pearson Airport for processing by the Public Health Agency of Canada,” police said.

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Cops did not release the name of the accused, nor did they reveal where the man’s flight originated.

International travellers are required to present a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board a flight to Canada. They are supposed to be tested again upon arriving in the country and then are expected to enter quarantine.

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This is not the first time a traveller has been accused of trying to enter Canada with a fake COVID-19 document.

A Stratford man was arrested after landing at Pearson on Feb. 8 and allegedly presenting a fraudulent COVID-19 document that had been doctored to hide the fact he had tested positive for coronavirus before boarding an international flight to Canada.

A CBSA officer and a quarantine officer were conducting checks at an inspection point in the airport when the man produced a negative COVID-19 document that allegedly turned out to be fraudulent.

“It was, in fact, a positive test result,” police alleged at the time.

The man, 29, was arrested and charged with one count of knowingly using a forged document.


Police said he was transported to a hotel for the mandatory quarantine period and he’s expected to appear in Brampton court on April 19.

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The accused man’s name or the country where his flight originated were not released in that case, either.

Also, last month, Transport Canada revealed two international travellers were fined — one $10,000, the other $7,000 — for allegedly producing fake COVID-19 test results after their flight from Mexico landed at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Jan. 23.

Countries in South America and across Europe have previously issued warnings about counterfeit test results being sold to travellers at airport, through travel agents and via the internet.

cdoucette@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @SunDoucette
 

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LEVY: Vaccinated retirement home residents confined to room for meals again
Author of the article:Sue-Ann Levy
Publishing date:Mar 25, 2021 • 3 minutes ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Sandy Cooper and her mom Bernice, Cooper, 86, a resident of Amica Thornhill who is once again confined to her room at her retirement home during meals despite having been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Sandy Cooper and her mom Bernice, Cooper, 86, a resident of Amica Thornhill who is once again confined to her room at her retirement home during meals despite having been vaccinated for COVID-19. PHOTO BY SUPPLIED /Sandy Cooper
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Sandy Cooper’s mom has been fully vaccinated — as have 97% of the residents in her retirement home.

Yet after three Amica Thornhill staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks, Bernice Cooper and the rest of the residents have been placed back in isolation, confined to their rooms for all meals.


Although they are able to walk the hallways and visit common areas — as long as they remain two metres apart from other residents — the dining room is closed.

Cooper says the dining room is often the “only outing” for her mom, who will be 87 in May and has physical limitations.

After being confined to her room almost continuously for more than a year now, what was once mild cognitive impairment has degraded so much that Bernice is no longer able to discern between clean and dirty laundry, she is so confused by the remote control she watches only one TV channel and she can’t remember whether she’s eaten or not, her daughter says.

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Her feistiness at the outset of the pandemic has now turned into “complacency” and she will spend Passover — which starts Saturday night — by herself.

“She spends her days alternating between sleeping and crying,” Cooper said of her mom. “She is desperately lonely and confused.”

She wonders what’s the point of vaccinating everyone if they are still being confined to their rooms — a move she feels is “cruel and unjust.

“If I kept my dog locked up in his crate 24/7 for over a year I would be arrested and hauled off to jail for cruelty to animals,” Cooper said. “Yet keeping seniors confined to their rooms 24/7 is okay?”

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She maintains things should be opening up more as people are vaccinated.

Cooper feels the Ontario government and Medical Officers of Health did the right things when the pandemic first hit but now a year later, she’s not sure they know what they’re doing.

“Nothing makes sense,” she said. “It’s all bungled.”

I would agree with her on the latter point, from the incessant and cruel lockdowns (which also kept me from visiting my mom for months) to the atrocious vaccine rollout, which has forced even those over 80 living in the community to wait four months for their second shot.

Given that studies are showing that seniors may not acquire lasting immunity with one dose, do the politicians and Ministry of Health not recognize that this will force the elderly to remain in isolation until at least July or possibly expose them to COVID-19 variants?
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It’s shameful.

Cooper said she doesn’t blame Amica, which did “everything right,” but the decisionmakers in government appear “scared to death to open up everything.”

Gillian Hering, general manager of Amica Thornhill, agrees this has been a very difficult time for residents and their families.

“We understand their desire to get back to some sense of normal,” she said.

Hering said the decisions were made by public health but they are advocating for public health to allow their dining room to reopen for the 97% of residents who are vaccinated.


Dr. Karim Kurji, medical officer of health for York Region, said although the vast majority of residents at Amica Thornhill are vaccinated, new residents coming in are “susceptible” if not immunized

Vaccinations do not offer 100% protection, only 95% at the best of times, he said.

Kurji said they don’t know if people are “still infectious” after being vaccinated — an area being looked at.

In this particular situation, at least 25 individuals were in close contact with those who tested positive.

“There are protocols and directives the province has provided,” Kurji said.

He added that the existing protocols are undergoing some review by the province and once those reviews have been done, the idea is “to relax some of those restrictions in these homes.”

But Kurji said removing restrictions from some areas, like dining rooms, will be more difficult because people take off their masks (while eating).

SLevy@postmedia.com
 

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Barrie group home's 'rigid approach' to COVID discriminated against boy: Tribunal
Family did not see non-verbal teen for six months last year

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Liam Casey
Publishing date:Mar 25, 2021 • 8 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Closed due to COVID sign.
Closed due to COVID sign. Getty Images
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Visitor restrictions imposed by a group home during the pandemic discriminated against a 14-year-old boy with disabilities, Ontario’s human rights tribunal has found.

It was the first decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on the “complex issues regarding the role of human rights in the middle of a public health care crisis.”


“Human rights protections do not go away in a pandemic,” adjudicator Jennifer Scott wrote in her decision released on Tuesday.

Pamela Libralesso and her family did not see her son, who lives in a small group home in Barrie with round-the-clock care, for six months last year.

Empower Simcoe runs 41 group homes for 180 people with intellectual difficulties. Two of those homes, including the one where the boy lives, are for residents under 18 years old.

From the onset of the provincial lockdown last year, the home had virtual and physically distanced visits. It said it was simply following provincial government rules.

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But Libralesso’s non-verbal son struggled to understand videoconference technology, the tribunal heard. He has a rare genetic condition that manifests itself as developmental and physical disabilities.

One of his primary forms of communication is touch, the tribunal heard, making physically distant visits difficult emotionally.

Libralesso fought to be able to hug and hold her son while following other public health protocols, including using personal protective equipment and screening for COVID-19.

FAILED TO ASSESS REAL RISK
The company refused to alter its plans over fears the novel coronavirus would make its way into the home where one other child lived.

“It failed to assess the real safety risk in a home with two children,” Scott wrote. “It also failed to consider the unique needs of the applicant as a child. Instead, it treated him the same as all of the residents in congregate care.”

Scott noted the home did its best to keep residents and staff safe during the unprecedented pandemic but was wrong to take a “rigid approach” to guidance documents.

The family came to an agreement with the home for regular visits, complete with hugs, late last summer, Libralesso said.

But she pushed on with the human rights case because she wasn’t sure what would happen if lockdowns returned, she said. She also said she fought for other families in similar situations.

“I’m beyond thrilled,”‘ Libralesso said. “We’re just so happy that the tribunal found in our favour. They had latitude, they had the ability to to accommodate my son based on his disability related needs and they chose not to.”

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The tribunal also weighed in on the value of video as a surrogate for in-person visits.

“Technology is not a reasonable form of accommodation for a child who is non-verbal and communicates, at least in part, through physical touch,” Scott wrote.

The tribunal found the boy’s social exclusion worsened during the pandemic.

“The visitation restrictions imposed by the respondent reinforced, perpetuated and exacerbated the social exclusion the applicant already experiences in the world because of his disabilities and are discriminatory for this reason,” Scott wrote.

The tribunal did not fault the home for its visitation ban from March to May, in part, because Libralesso had not asked for accommodation. Rather, she fought for change with the Ministry of Health and the local medical officer of health.

But the tribunal said that changed when Libralesso asked in June to see her son without physical distancing. She wasn’t able to hold him until late August.

TOOK TWO MONTHS TO ADJUST
The tribunal found it was up to the home to prove it could not accommodate the boy without incurring undue hardship. The home failed to meet the burden, Scott wrote.

Empower Simcoe CEO Claudine Cousins said it is reviewing the decision.

“Empower Simcoe has been committed to providing a safe and healthy living and work environment for the people it supports and its staff,” Cousins said in an email.

“In the context of this global pandemic, it has adhered to public health and (Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services) guidelines. Empower Simcoe has always taken its obligations under human rights legislation seriously.”

Libralesso said her son took about two months to adjust to seeing his family again. He ignored his father, his closest family member, for much of that time, she said. His constant smile disappeared.

“He’s back to smiling, back to his vocalizations and his happy sound, but it was tough,” she said.
 
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Ontario fire deaths hit near-record level amid pandemic
Fire deaths in Ontario soared to near-record levels during the first year of the pandemic, spiking in the coldest stretch of this winter to levels not seen in more than 20 years.

Author of the article:Max Martin • Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Publishing date:Mar 27, 2021 • 3 days ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Fatal fire on Olive Ave in Oshawa on Monday March 22, 2021. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
Fatal fire on Olive Ave in Oshawa on Monday March 22, 2021. Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
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Fire deaths in Ontario soared to near-record levels during the first year of the pandemic, spiking in the coldest stretch of this winter to levels not seen in more than 20 years.

In the aftermath, investigators have noticed a worrisome trend: no working smoke alarms, mandatory in Ontario for almost 50 years, in about one-third of the deadly fires.

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“Too often we investigate fatal fires where there are no working smoke alarms,” said Kristy Denette, a spokesperson for the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.

“Collectively, we need to do better and take fire safety seriously.”

The provincial office, which oversees fire investigations, stops short of blaming the run of deadly fires on the virus crisis, with millions of people cooped up more often at home. But those are factors some say only increase the risk of fires from common sources such as cooking.

The toll taken by residential fires was underlined this week by a devastating house fire in Oshawa that killed two men and two children, and in an apartment fire two weeks ago in West Lorne, where a 38-year-old woman’s body was found the morning after in the charred ruins.

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In London, a 56-year-old man died last month in a fire at a townhouse near Kipps Lane where there was no working smoke alarm.

Provincewide, 114 people died in fires last year, up 35 per cent from a 10-year average beforehand and nearly double the toll from 2019.

The figures cover all kinds of fires, including those involving buildings and vehicles, but the vast majority involve residences.

The worst year on record in Ontario was 2001, with 119 fire deaths.

Already this year, Ontario is reporting 42 fire deaths. Thirty-two people died in fires in January and February, the highest toll for those two months since 1998.

“We do not have any evidence that the pandemic is responsible for more fires, but this is being monitored by the Office of the Fire Marshal,” Denette wrote in an email, adding fire deaths often fluctuate from year to year.

In January and February, there were 65 fires in London, up from 41 in the same period last year.

Matt Hepditch, London’s deputy fire chief in charge of prevention, said the pandemic is at least partly to blame for more fires, with more people spending more time at home. That means more cooking and heavier use of household appliances — both factors that can cause fires.

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Fires from cooking left unattended are the biggest culprit, Hepditch said.

“That seems to be regular and very consistent in the city right now,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to not leave cooking unattended.”

Hepditch said he’s also noticed a rise in smoke alarm violations.

“There have been several fires in the city where there are no working smoke alarms or smoke alarms have been taken down for some reason,” he said.

Denette said fire deaths tend to be higher in the winter, with heating-related fires more common then.

Cooking, careless smoking and electrical failure are the leading causes of fires.

Ontario’s death rate from fires has fallen dramatically since smoke alarms were made mandatory in 1975, plunging from 30.9 deaths per million people in 1980 to 7.8 deaths per million last year, government figures show.

Even at that, however, last year’s death rate was up from 4.6 deaths per million people the year before.

The Ontario law on smoke alarms was beefed up in 2006 to require fire detection devices on every floor of a dwelling and outside all sleeping areas. Offenders can be ticked $360 or fined up to $50,000, double that for corporations.

Carbon monoxide detectors, to alert people to poisonous gas emitted from fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, are also required in all Ontario residences built after 2001. A law making them mandatory was enacted after a Woodstock family died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2008.

maxmartin@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Toronto Sun is part of the Local Journalism Initiative and reporters are funded by the Government of Canada to produce civic journalism for underserved communities. Learn more about the initiative
 

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Younger patients with more severe COVID straining system: OHA president
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Mar 30, 2021 • 1 day ago • 1 minute read • 21 Comments
A digital Intensive Care Unit room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital in Vaughan, Ontario on January 18, 2021. The new hospital is being opened to take patients from other hospitals that are strained by COVID-19.
A digital Intensive Care Unit room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital in Vaughan, Ontario on January 18, 2021. The new hospital is being opened to take patients from other hospitals that are strained by COVID-19. PHOTO BY FRANK GUNN /THE CANADIAN PRESS
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The president of the Ontario Hospital Association says the province could face a new surge in patient transfers and cancelled surgeries as it deals with the third wave of COVID-19 in the weeks ahead.

Anthony Dale says if the trend of increasing patient numbers arriving in the province’s hospitals continues, it will further strain capacity.


Dale says that will lead to patient transfers running “24/7” to ensure they receive life-saving care and additional cancelled surgeries will be added to the current backlog of 250,000 procedures.

He says intensive care units across Ontario are seeing younger patients, with more severe cases of COVID-19, which is straining the system.

Ontario reported Monday that 409 patients with COVID-19 are in hospital ICUs, with nearly half the patients in the region around Toronto on ventilators.

Dale warned that the pandemic is not over, despite more widespread availability of vaccines, and stressed that people must follow public health measures.

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“I am very concerned about the breakdown in social cohesion and the understanding of the risk and the sacrifice that is still needed to get us all through this safely together and without unnecessary death and harm and further massive disruption to hospital care,” he said.


On Monday, Ornge Air Ambulance said between Jan. 1 and March 25, at least 601 patients have been transferred by it or local paramedic services to help address the pandemic capacity crunch in hospitals.

Dale says patient transfers have picked up in recent days, citing the example of hospitals in Scarborough where patients are being transported to Kingston for critical care.

“Hospitals will move heaven and earth … but it’s all making a terrible situation worse,” he said. “That’s what I see over the coming weeks.”
 

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I'LL DO IT AGAIN: Ford threatens new lockdowns if COVID numbers keep rising
Ontario reported 2,336 new COVID-19 cases as variants fuel deadly third wave

Author of the article:Antonella Artuso
Antonella Artuso
Publishing date:Mar 30, 2021 • 17 hours ago • 2 minute read • 320 Comments
Ontario Premier Doug Ford listens to a question during the daily briefing at a mass vaccination centre in Toronto on Tuesday, March 30, 2021.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford listens to a question during the daily briefing at a mass vaccination centre in Toronto on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. PHOTO BY FRANK GUNN /The Canadian Press
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All options are on the table yet again as the province sees rising numbers of new COVID-19 variant cases and hospitalizations, Premier Doug Ford says.

“Im asking you, don’t make plans for Easter,” Ford said Tuesday.


“I won’t hesitate to you know lock things down if we have to. I did it before I’ll do it again.”

The province reported 2,336 new cases of COVID-19, 14 more deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations including 387 in intensive care and 249 on ventilators.

There were 727 new cases in Toronto, 434 in Peel, 229 in York, 194 in Durham, 144 in Ottawa and 123 in Hamilton.


Public health officials say variants of concern (VOC,) mutations that are more contagious than the original strains of COVID-19, are fuelling a third wave of the pandemic.

The number of deaths are down from previous peaks following widespread vaccination in long-term-care (LTC) homes, but hospitals continue to report younger patients.

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Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is not returning to pre-pandemic normal yet.

“We do have the emergency brake if we need to use it,” Elliott said.

“We’re keeping a very close eye on the situation across the province of Ontario. And if we need to take action, and put on the emergency brake we won’t hesitate to do that.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed Tuesday that April Break will begin as scheduled on April 12, despite concerns about rising case numbers.

In the previous 24 hours, Ontario administered 70,645 doses of vaccine for a pandemic total of over 2.1 million doses.


Ford thanked retired General Rick Hillier whose appointment as head of the province’s vaccine rollout ends Wednesday.

“The infrastructure they’ve put in place is absolutely critical — over 250 planned vaccination sites including mass clinics, hospital hub sites and mobile clinics for the month of March as well as over 1,500 pharmacies and primary care sites by the end of April,” Ford said.

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“Our ability to get needles into arms grow by the day but the supply of vaccines, it isn’t keeping up with our capacity to deliver them, not even close.”

Hillier said he still believes the province can give every Ontario resident who wants one a first dose by the first official day of summer given sufficient supply.

The provincial government provided an update on the vaccine supply Tuesday.

The federal delivery system provided 466,830 doses each of Pfizer on March 22 and 29, the province said.

Ontario expects another 396,630 doses of Pfizer on April 5, 395,460 doses on both April 12 and April 19, and then 396,970 doses on April 26.

Significant delays have occurred in Moderna deliveries, and there’s no clear date for the arrival of a new shipment of AstraZeneca, the province says.

aartuso@postmedia.com