Coronavirus: Ontario says it plans to extend Dr. William’s term as chief medical officer of health

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TORONTO – Ontario says it plans to extend the term of its top doctor as it continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams’ term was set to end Feb. 16.

Read more: Toronto, Peel enter lockdown phase of pandemic plan, some residents welcome new restrictions

Elliott says Williams’ leadership is required as the province continues to manage the pandemic and develops plans for the deployment of vaccines.

Some within the health-care sector have criticized Williams for his handling of the pandemic, claiming he hasn’t provided clear guidance and has been slow to impose tougher measures when needed.

Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly defended Williams, saying he has been key to Ontario’s fight against COVID-19.

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The government tabled a motion in the legislature today to extend Williams’ term, and it must still be approved.

Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting a record 1,589 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 19 new deaths due to the virus.

Read more: Toronto, Peel Region companies under lockdown brace for spike in online sales, delivery delays

Elliott says 535 cases are in Peel Region, 336 cases are in Toronto, and 205 cases are in York Region.

The province also reported 60 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 51 among students.

Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 676 out of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools.

In the province’s long-term care homes, 528 residents currently have COVID-19 and 11 new deaths have been reported today.

The province says 101 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak.

Read more: Ontario reports nearly 1,600 new coronavirus cases as province sets new single-day record

The latest figures come as Toronto and Peel Region entered the lockdown stage of Ontario’s pandemic protection plan today.

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It means that for at least the next 28 days, non-essential retailers can only offer curbside pickup, while restaurants are closed to all but takeout and delivery orders in the two COVID-19 hot spots.

Personal services have also been forced to close, but schools and child-care centres remain open.