Ontario reports 32 new COVID 19 cases, bringing total to 177

Ontario Premier Doug Ford answers questions as Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, left, listen in during a news conference at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Monday March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO:  Ontario has reported 32 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total in the province to 177.

The new cases are across the province, including in Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury, but the majority are in the Greater Toronto Area.

New patients reported today are all self-isolating, but other information _ including their ages and how they became infected _ is sparse.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to make an announcement later today related to the province’s COVID-19 response.

The announcement will be related to protecting workers, and will involve the health, finance and labour ministers.

Meanwhile, following complaints of long wait times for Telehealth Ontario services, Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is adding more nurses to the system.

“By immediately expanding Telehealth’s resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy,” Elliott said in a statement.

About 130 more nurses have been deployed for symptom assessment and referrals. Telehealth is also working to add more intake staff so that wait times are reduced for people to make initial contact with a representative.

The province is also working with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario to expand supports using its 44,000 registered nurse members, Elliott said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says unless people have severe symptoms or a medical emergency, they should stay at home while waiting for a Telehealth response.

“We understand that people are anxious to get the advice about next steps as soon as possible, which is why the capacity of Telehealth is being enhanced,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

Elliott also announced that youth justice facilities have been told to suspend all personal visits and volunteer activities. All “non-essential” leaves for helping youth in custody reintegrate into the community are being restricted.

Elliott and Social Services Minister Todd Smith said video-calling can still be used for family to stay in touch with youth in those facilities.

Lawyers will still be able to visit their clients but should consider using teleconferencing instead, the ministers said.