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Ontario to hold independent commission into long-term care home system

Coronavirus: Ford government announces commission to examine long-term care in Ontario
WATCH ABOVE: The Ford government is deploying a non-partisan commission to examine what went wrong during COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario long-term care homes. More than 1,400 residents died after contracting the virus. Morganne Campbell reports.

TORONTO – Ontario is launching an independent commission into the province’s long-term care system.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton says in a statement that the commission will start in September, and in the meantime the government will be finalizing terms of reference, leadership and timelines.

She says “an independent non-partisan commission is the best way to conduct a thorough and expedited review.”

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association, opposition parties and health-care union SEIU have all called for a full public inquiry into the sector.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario Long Term Care Association calls on province to commit to public inquiry

Nearly 1,400 long-term care residents have died amid COVID-19 outbreaks in the facilities, as well as five staff members.

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The number of long-term care homes experiencing an outbreak has grown over the past few weeks, even as the government has imposed increasing restrictions and implemented widespread testing.

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Meanwhile, Ontario’s education minister is set to give an update Tuesday on the status of schools and child care centres as some businesses in the province begin to open their doors.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario close to completing testing in long-term care homes
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario close to completing testing in long-term care homes

Stephen Lecce’s update comes as the province starts the first stage of its economic reopening, giving the green light to retailers, some sports centres, vehicle dealerships and other businesses to resume.

But the province stresses those businesses still have to comply with public health guidelines such as physical distancing as they welcome customers.

Some business owners have expressed relief and excitement at the prospect of reopening, while others say they feel it’s too early to do so safely.

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READ MORE: Nurse volunteers to help short-staffed Ontario long-term care home experiencing coronavirus outbreak

The province ordered the closure of all businesses deemed non-essential in mid-March and recently allowed those with street entrances to offer curbside pickup.

Ontario reported 304 more cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 22,957.

There have been 1,904 deaths related to the virus in the province so far, including 23 that were reported Monday.