Province announces measures to protect vulnerable people during pandemic

TORONTO — The Ontario government has announced a new plan to help better protect vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People, announced on April 22, is designed to help protect people living in high-risk settings such as homes serving those with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, children’s residential settings, and those residential settings supporting vulnerable Indigenous individuals and families both on and off reserve.

The plan’s focus areas are enhanced screening and reducing exposure to prevent spread of the virus; managing outbreaks and limiting spread; and sustaining staffing and managing staff shortages.

“These people are most at risk during this pandemic and that’s why we are helping these organizations immediately ramp up screening and testing, deploy more protective masks and gloves, and put more boots on the ground in the fight against COVID-19,” said Premier Doug Ford.

According to the province, there will be enhanced screening of visitors, staff and residents at these sites, as well as restricting non-essential visitors. Staff at these facilities will also be provided with masks and will receive training on how to properly use personal protective equipment in the event of an outbreak.

The plan also calls for measures to limit staff to working in one congregate care setting during an outbreak, additional training for high-risk settings dealing with an outbreak, and working with organizations to promote workforce stability and capacity in high-risk settings.

As part of the announcement on April 22, the province has suspended evictions; provided funds through the province’s $200 million Social Services Relief Fund to service managers; earmarked $37 million to support outbreak planning, prevention and mitigation efforts for Indigenous people and communities; and has expanded the list of eligible expenses under Special Services at Home and for Passport funding.

The province also stated that they will provide assistance and “greater clarity” about what expenses are eligible under the Ontario Autism program, including Childhood Budgets and interim one-time funding, during the pandemic.