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Premier Doug Ford warns medical supply shortage may loom with surge in COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus outbreak: Ford says ‘massive surge’ on hospitals will ‘seriously’ challenge supplies
WATCH ABOVE: Coronavirus outbreak: Ford says 'massive surge' on hospitals will 'seriously' challenge supplies (March 30, 2020)

TORONTO – Ontario reported 351 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the province’s largest single-day increase by far, as Premier Doug Ford warned that a shortage of critical medical supplies may be perilously close.

Officials are “working every contact we have” to secure more equipment such as masks and gloves for front-line workers, Ford said, but the more time Ontario gets to prepare, the more lives will be saved.

“It will take time for local production to ramp up and for new supplies to reach us,” Ford said.

“The reality is if there’s a massive surge of people coming into our hospitals in the next two weeks, our supply lines will be seriously challenged.”

About 10 per cent of people in the province who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far have been hospitalized, provincial figures show.

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READ MORE: Ontario reports 351 new coronavirus cases, 10 deaths as total cases top 1,700

The new total of cases in the province is now at 1,706 – including 431 resolved cases and 33 deaths.

Seven of the province’s deaths have been in one nursing home in Bobcaygeon, which the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit believes is the largest outbreak in the province.

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At least 24 staff members are infected, with another 10 awaiting test results.

Three residents at Pinecrest Nursing Home tested positive and since then, more than 30 other residents developed symptoms, though they have not been tested – per provincial guidelines – since the virus was already confirmed to be in the facility.

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Another person in the community has died in a case linked to the nursing home.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said she is looking at more intense screening for long-term care homes and more advanced ways to isolate people infected at those facilities.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health strongly recommended Monday that everyone in the province – especially people over 70 and with compromised immune systems – stay home except for essential reasons.

“The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community’s most vulnerable citizens, (are) in your hands and will depend on your actions over the coming days and weeks,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

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Ford reiterated Monday that he is prepared to take further action, lamenting that he saw “the streets were packed” on the previous day’s sunny afternoon, but that he is waiting for advice from Williams.

READ MORE: Ontario government bans gatherings of more than 5 people in bid to stop coronavirus spread

Ford also said he would be extending the state of emergency, which had been set to expire Tuesday, and orders many facilities closed, including daycares, libraries, and bars and restaurants except to do take-out or delivery.

Officials attribute the surge in new cases Monday at least in part to clearing a backlog of pending test results.

Several days ago there were nearly 11,000 people waiting for their results, but that started to come down as the province added more testing capacity. As of Monday the number stood at 5,651.

The number of resolved cases had been stuck at eight for many days, but health officials had said to expect a large jump once the data caught up to a new definition for resolved.

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The increase in the number of resolved cases to 431 also means there are actually fewer active COVID-19 cases in Ontario – 1,252 – than the 1,324 that Sunday’s data had indicated.

A new reporting format from the province also shows that more than 61 per cent of all cases are in the Greater Toronto Area.

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Information on how people became infected is still pending for nearly half of all cases in Ontario. About 16 per cent are attributed to community spread, 26 per cent to recent travel, and nearly 10 per cent to close contact with another confirmed case.

The median age of people infected is 50, with cases ranging in age from under one year old to 100 years old.