Premier Doug Ford said he's in no rush to move into Stage 3 of reopening, as Ontario reported 116 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with just four public health units reporting five or more newly confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus.
"We're going to be very cautious about opening up but eventually we'll get there," Ford said during the province's daily COVID-19 update.
His comments come as the province remains poised to move to Stage 3 soon, with officials suggesting next week, and one day after Ontario extended its emergency orders for the COVID-19 pandemic to July 22.
When asked Friday if bars and the indoor dining areas of restaurants would be included in the third phase, Ford said that has yet to be determined.
He added that Ontarians are in "such a better position than our friends south of the border," and that he does not want to reopen the border with U.S. anytime soon.
"Our American friends, I love you, but stay home," Ford said.
New cases concentrated in Toronto, Peel, York, Windsor
Meanwhile, after a one-day surge yesterday attributed to the targeted testing of temporary farm labourers in Windsor- Essex, today's figure continues a five-week-long downward trend in new daily case numbers.
The new cases are concentrated in Toronto and the Peel, York and Windsor-Essex regions, with 23, 35, 14 and 10, respectively. Seventeen public health units reported no new cases at all.
Ontario has now seen a total of 36,464 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, 88.2 per cent are considered resolved by the Ministry of Health. Another 178 infections were marked resolved in today's update.
The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus also continued a downward trend, with 117 — fewer than a fifth of the total at the beginning of June. Thirty-four are being treated in intensive care units, while 24 of those are on ventilators.
Ontario's network of about 30 community, commercial and hospital labs processed 27, 484 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday. Positivity rates are at "all-time lows" in the province, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said today.
The province reported another seven deaths on Friday, bringing its official death toll to 2,710. But a CBC News count based on data provided directly by public health units puts the actual toll at 2,752 — an increase of 10 since Thursday evening.
378,000 jobs added in Ontario added last month
Ford made multiple public appearances at businesses today to thank Ontario workers for their service during the pandemic.
Ford's day started at a skylight manufacturing company in Woodbridge, where the premier made an announcement alongside Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development.
The premier touted the near 378,000 jobs added in Ontario last month — a bounce-back largely attributed to the province reopening at the beginning of June, unlike most of the rest of the country, which began to cautiously reopen in May.
"We got through to the worst of this pandemic," Ford said Friday.
"As we recover from the worst economic downturn of our lifetime … as we brace for what the future might hold, now more than ever we need to support our own."
Ford said that's the reason for the province supporting a new program called Ontario Made, launched by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), which allows consumers to identify, access and purchase local products through a website.
"Over the past few months, plants and factories across the province retooled their operations to provide the front lines with the essential equipment needed in the fight against COVID-19, including PPE," Fedeli said in a release issued Friday.
"[It] is now more important than ever to support and promote Ontario's world-class manufacturing sector and get people back to work."
Ford later toured a Toronto-based textile company that retooled its facility to start producing face masks.
The premier then visited a bakery in Toronto's west end to serve customers through a take out window built by the shop.
Unions consider political action over emergency act
Meanwhile, unions representing Ontario's health-care workers are consulting with their memberships about taking political action in response to the province potentially extending its emergency act.
The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and Canadian Union of Public Employees say that under the emergency orders, their collective bargaining agreement with the province is suspended.
Michael Hurley, president of the unions, says that while that was acceptable in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's now a detriment to health-care workers.
He says that nurses and other care workers can have their shifts changed, be moved from site to site, or have vacation requests denied under the act.
The union also says the province announced its plans to extend the act without consulting them.
The Progressive Conservative government introduced a bill earlier this week that would allow the province to keep some emergency measures in place in the months ahead.