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Ontario confirms 195 new cases of COVID-19, 3 more deaths

Last Updated Jul 24, 2020 at 1:29 pm EDT

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

Ontario confirmed 195 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a jump from the 103 cases reported yesterday.

In a tweet, Minister of Health Christine Elliott noted that the majority (66 per cent) of new cases are people under the age of 40.

Three more people have died, bringing the death toll at 2,758.

The provincial total of confirmed cases now stands at 38,405 with 88.8 per cent considered resolved.

Windsor-Essex’s medical officer of health says that region now has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed says the region passed Toronto and Peel this week with 484 cases per 100,000 people, calling the situation “stressful and concerning.”

Ahmed says the jump in cases can be attributed to outbreaks on local farms and increasing cases in the community likely due to reopening of the region weeks ago

The cases are “stretching” local hospital capacity in Windsor and Leamington, Ont., he added.

Windsor-Essex reported 53 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, attributing 43 of those cases to agri-food workers.

Hundreds of migrant workers in the region have tested positive for the virus over the past few months and two have died.

On Thursday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said on-farm testing efforts had recently been “paused” after only 19 of 176 such facilities in the region participated.

Dr. David Williams said a new communications package has been created for farms and their workers as the testing restarts.

“There was some sense from our minister of agriculture that the communication to the farm owners was a bit confusing,” he said. “So (the government) put together a toolkit … so they can see ahead of time, if you’re going to ask for the mobile team to come into your farm and do testing, you can see what the expectations are.”

Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly resisted calls for mandatory testing of migrant workers as a condition of their employment to help contain the virus.

Ahmed said Friday that he will not rule out mandatory testing on farms if he thinks the measure would protect the community.

“So far, the farm owners have come through and followed our recommendations,” he said. “So I didn’t have to force anyone at this point. But in the worst case scenario, if we are in that situation because of the risk, that option will be available for me to use.”

Earlier this month, Ahmed used a public health order to effectively shutdown a Leamington, Ont., farm temporarily after 191 of its workers tested positive for COVID-19.

That prompted criticism from Ford, who said the move would discourage farmers from participating in local efforts to ramp up testing.

“All of a sudden they shut down the farm and I understand where the chief medical officer is, but do you think that encourages other farmers to co-operate?” Ford said at the time.

Meanwhile, Hamilton and Niagara are among more regions of Ontario that moved to Stage 3 of reopening on Friday.

The easing of measures means indoor dining at a restaurant or drinking in a pub is allowed. Gyms and movie theatres are also allowed to reopen.

In all cases, physical distancing must be maintained among patrons.

Durham, York, Halton, Haldimand-Norfolk and Lambton are also now in Stage 3. However, Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex remain in the more restrictive Stage 2.

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