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Ontario expands emergency child care, gives no timing for all centres to reopen

Last Updated Apr 29, 2020 at 2:30 pm EDT

Children's backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. A new report says federal spending on child care has eased daycare costs in a handful of cities nationwide where Ottawa's cash was used to reduce fees. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Ontario is expanding emergency child care to more people, including parents who work in retirement homes, grocery stores and pharmacies.

The province ordered child care centres closed in March, under one of several COVID-19 emergency orders, but reopened some to accommodate children of front-line health-care and emergency services personnel.

Today’s announcement marks the second expansion of emergency child care, and will mean another 37 centres open in addition to the nearly 100 others in operation.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce wouldn’t commit to a timeline to reopen all child care centres, which are currently closed until at least May 6 under the emergency order that can only be extended for two weeks at a time.

He says child care is often necessary for parents to participate in the labour market, so the government will take that into consideration as it plans its phased approach to restarting the economy.

One of the emergency child care centres in Toronto has closed for two weeks after three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 347 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, increasing the provincial total by 2.3 per cent – the lowest growth rate in weeks.

The province also recorded 45 more deaths, though a separate long-term care database showed an increase of 70 deaths in those facilities in the previous day.

Ontario has now seen 15,728 cases, with 996 deaths, and 9,612 resolved cases – more than 60 per cent of the total.

Under the province’s reopening framework, the chief medical officer is looking for a consistent, two-to-four-week decrease in the number of new cases as well as declining hospitalizations before advising moving to the first stage.

In long-term care, there have now been 775 deaths, 2,632 confirmed cases in residents and 1,361 confirmed cases in staff members. There are 159 homes reported to have active outbreaks.

About 45 per cent of all of the long-term care deaths have happened in just 11 particularly hard-hit homes.

The most up-to-date information on retirement homes – which comes from a third provincial source – is that there are also 56 outbreaks in retirement homes, with 588 cases and 114 deaths.

Ontario reported doing 11,554 tests in the previous 24 hours and has said it will do 14,000 tests daily by today – a number that would be reflected in Thursday’s data.