On Thursday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford announced a series of new research projects funded at least in part with provincial tax dollars to help find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joined at the dais by Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott and Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano, the Premier also touched on his desire to ramp up COVID-19 testing in Ontario.
Last month, Ontario announced the $20-million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, to be put towards Ontario-based research projects looking into various aspects of COVID-19, and today Ford announced the first phase of these projects, an investment of $7.2 million. The first phase involves 15 proposals accepted by the government, including a rapid testing method put forward by St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, a McMaster University study of recovered patients to examine antibodies and if they help prevent the spread of COVID-19, a food security project at Western University and a proposal from the University of Guelph to advance a vaccine. “The key to beating this virus once and for all, the key to getting things back to normal, is finding a vaccine, finding a cure,” Ford said, adding, “I want the vaccine to be discovered in Ontario.”
Ontario is also leading the country with 22 clinical trials under way investigating COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Read the province’s media release here.
Expanded Testing Coming
Prodded by the media about testing in the province, Ford said more information is coming next week on increased testing in Ontario, noting his desire for more tests done on asymptomatic people and in specific sectors. Specifically, he said truckers, taxi and Uber drivers, front-line long-term care workers, meat processing plants and the automotive sector will be tested. “We can’t just be testing people with symptoms,” Ford said. “We have to start going to the broader public and start testing as many asymptomatic people as possible. Until we do that, and I’m no medical expert, I’ve said that a million times, we can’t get our hands around the whole system.”
Ford added he is confident we will see testing numbers increase: “I’ll be like an 800-pound gorilla on their backs every day until I see those numbers go up.”
Fate of Moving to Stage 2
Ontario’s COVID-19 case numbers have been inching back up after the Victoria Day long weekend, but Ford said the province will continue to rely on professional medical advice on the conditions in Stage 1 of the provincial recovery plan and when, or if, we will be able to move to Stage 2. Elliott noted Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams is cautioning that the path to recovery is a slow, gradual path and that despite the past week we are still on a gradual downward trend. “We will watch closely as we get into next week to see the impact on Stage 1,” Elliott said. “That will influence where we go from here.”