TORONTO — Ontarians struggling to make Thanksgiving plans during a pandemic aren't alone.
The premier himself found out during a news conference Tuesday that his family's holiday plans violated public health guidelines.
Doug Ford initially said he planned to have people over for the long weekend, before later backtracking to clarify that he would celebrate only with those in his immediate household.
The back and forth came just as the premier urged residents to follow public health guidelines amid a recent rise in cases.
"Thanksgiving is kind of make or break it," Ford said. "Just please, hang in there. I have a big family and I told (my wife) Karla ... we have no more than 10. Simple as that."
On Monday, Ontario's associate medical officer of health said people should only celebrate Thanksgiving with those in their household. Local medical officers of health have also issued the same advice.
When asked twice for clarification, Ford eventually said he would have to respond to reporters' questions later.
The premier later tweeted that he would be celebrating only with members of his household.
"I just spoke with my wife Karla and we’ll follow the same advice as we stick to our immediate household for Thanksgiving dinner," he wrote on Twitter.
Ontario reported 548 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and seven new deaths due to the virus. It hit a record 732 cases on Friday and announced tighter restrictions to deal with the second wave of the pandemic, including asking people to "pause " their 10-person social bubbles.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford's mixed messaging hurts the government's efforts to communicate with the public during the pandemic.
"Either the premier is confused about public health measures or he was caught giving a special exemption to his family for Thanksgiving," he said in a statement. "Public trust is vital, and Ford’s mixed messaging undermines that trust."
Meanwhile, Ontario's COVID-19 testing centres moved to an appointment-only model Tuesday in a bid to address long lineups at the sites. Guidelines for just who could get a test were also changed last week to prioritize those with symptoms and high-risk workers.
Some people arriving for testing at sites in Mississauga, Ont., on Tuesday said they were satisfied with the new model.
Mike Bradvic, who was getting tested for the third time, said he waited in his car for about an hour to get tested at a drive-in assessment centre. He said that was better than when he had to wait between three to four hours for his previous tests.
"I like it better," he said about appointment-only testing. "I just think it's a little bit more organized."
Sharida Appana, 53, also said she had a good experience after booking an appointment online Tuesday morning to get tested at Trillium Health Mississauga Hospital the same day.
“It’s better this way, very safe,” she said.
But some said they were having trouble getting appointments.
Alex Dallas, a Toronto resident, said she had been trying to book a test since Monday but wasn't able to find an available slot.
"Every single time you go on, it doesn’t matter what time you go on to try and get an appointment, there are no appointments,” she said.
Dallas said she would prefer to wait in line for a walk-in test and was worried she wouldn't be able to get assessed for the virus.
The government introduced new testing guidelines last week aimed at cutting the number of people seeking assessments as it deals with a testing backlog that hit more than 90,000 on Friday.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed that some COVID-19 tests were being sent to the United States for processing. A spokeswoman said the province's work to expand laboratory capacity includes using third-party providers, including Quest Diagnostics, which is in the California.
Ford said earlier this week that a shortage of diagnostic technicians and chemicals needed to process tests were pushing Ontario to its capacity.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the need to send tests to the U.S. shows the province is scrambling to respond to the second wave of the pandemic.
""The only reason that has to happen is that Mr. Ford and his government bungled the preparations for the second wave," she said. "Let's face it. They had all summer to make sure they had the capacity to do the extra tests."
-- with files from Denise Paglinawan in Mississauga, Ont.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 6, 2020.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press