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COVID-19: Ontario Premier warns of 'turbulent waters' ahead in fight against virus

Health-care system 'on the brink of being overwhelmed' as cases continue to soar in swaths of the province, Ford says

TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford warned that "turbulent waters" are ahead in the fight against COVID-19 on Sunday as Ontario set yet another single-day high for new diagnoses. 

He said the health-care system is "on the brink" of being overwhelmed as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to soar in swaths of the province. 

"We need to band together; we need to stick together," Ford said in a pre-recorded video posted to Twitter. "We're going to see some real turbulent waters in the next couple months."

He said that while officials are working to vaccinate people quickly, mass inoculation won't happen until "April, May and June." 

Before then, he said, people need to stay home as much as possible and follow public health advice. 

"Other people's lives are in your hands," he tweeted. 

The grim warning comes just days before public health officials are expected to release new COVID-19 projections that Ford has said are very concerning. 

The modelling data is expected Tuesday, a source in the premier's office confirmed. 

It also comes as Ontario logged 3,945 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, along with 61 new virus-related deaths. 

The province said 1,483 people are in hospital with the virus, including 388 who are in intensive care and 266 on ventilators. 

A total of 4,983 people have died from COVID-19 in Ontario and 215,782 have tested positive for the virus over the course of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, two of Canada's four federal party leaders joined a rally at a Toronto long-term care home on Sunday to press the provincial government to do more to protect seniors from the ravages of COVID-19. 

Data from the ministry of health shows there are 43 residents and 28 staff members currently infected with the virus at the St. George Care Community home, while 14 deaths have been linked to the active outbreak. 

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said she has a personal connection to the home, noting her father died there during the first wave of the global pandemic.

She and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called on both provincial officials and members of the public to do their utmost to protect long-term care residents, who have been hit especially hard by the virus.

"This is a plea on behalf of every single person who has someone who is still alive in these facilities and every single person who has lost someone in these facilities," Paul said. "Please help. Please make sure that you follow the recommendations by our experts.

"They are clear. They are implementable. And they would make a difference tomorrow if only there was the political will."

St. George's is owned by Sienna Senior Living, but the University Health Network temporarily took over management of the for-profit facility last week. Sienna also owns Rockcliffe Care Community in Toronto's east end and Langstaff Square Care Community in Richmond Hill, Ont., which are also under hospital management.

Singh said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the flaws of the for-profit model of long-term care homes.

"Profit has been killing seniors," he said. "We're making a very clear demand: we need to get profit out of long-term care."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2021.

John Chidley-Hill and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press