Ontario Premier Doug Ford took aim at backyard parties for an uptick in COVID-19 cases after the province reported 148 new confirmed infections Friday, with nearly half in Peel region.
"I'm really concerned about what's happening in Brampton," Ford told reporters at a news conference Friday, noting the city represents just three percent of the population of Ontario, but makes up more than 40 per cent of new cases.
Ford said something is clearly "broken" in the region that includes communities such as Mississauga and Brampton, calling on residents to heed public health advice and hinting the government was prepared to take action if case levels don't come down.
"We won't hesitate to again shut it down," Ford said as he raised the prospect of rolling back reopening measures to contain the situation. "We're seeing a slow creep, so folks, just follow the protocols."
Heading into the Labour Day long weekend, Ford also urged Ontarians to avoid unsafe gatherings and not to share drinks, joints or anything else that could contribute to the virus's spread.
WATCH | Doug Ford 'really concerned' about COVID-19 cases in Brampton:
The premier also said he was looking to get in touch with Brampton's mayor Patrick Brown to discuss what needs to be done to curb the spread, including whether mobile testing units are necessary.
Of Friday's new cases, Peel Region saw 72 more cases, Toronto 41 and Ottawa 13. All 31 other public health units in the province confirmed five or fewer additional infections of the novel coronavirus, and 12 reported no new cases at all.
New daily cases in Peel, particularly in the Brampton area, have been steadily rising since August 31.
Peel school board confirms 2 employees infected
On Friday, the Peel District School Board (PDSB) confirmed a staff member at the Ross Drive Public School had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The employee was in the building on Aug. 27 and had been wearing a mask, the board said. Peel Public Health has not identified any risk to the school, which has since been cleaned and will remain open, the PDSB added.
A second PDSB employee recently tested positive and was last at the board's North Field Office on Aug. 28. The administrative office, which is not attended by students, was cleaned following the positive test result and remains open.
Friday afternoon the Toronto District School Board also confirmed a "possible" positive case at Westview Centennial Secondary School in North York.
"We have been informed by Toronto Public Health that, following an investigation, the possible case was not contagious while at school and there were no exposures to COVID-19 at Westview Centennial," said board spokesperson Ryan Bird in a statement to CBC News.
Toronto Public Health confirmed the case was not infectious while at Westview, so there were no contacts to follow up on. They will not be identifying the individual due to privacy concerns, said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health, in a statement.
Ford defends Ontario's top doctor amid calls for resignation
During Friday's news conference, Ford was also asked about the criticism being levelled at the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and calls for him to resign or be fired ahead of a possible second wave of the virus.
Ford replied by defending Williams, saying he took "personal offence" to the suggestion that he be fired.
Williams has been criticized as poor communicator and slow to adapt during pandemic.
"I have all the faith in the world in Dr. Williams," Ford said.
Upward trend in rolling average of cases
Newly confirmed infections in Peel and Toronto combined have been driving an upward trend in the five-day rolling average of daily cases in Ontario, which has been rising since a low on August 9.
Ontario has now seen a total of 42,834 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 90.4 per cent are resolved, including 116 that were marked resolved in today's update.
There are now some 1,282 active cases of COVID-19 provincewide.
More than 28,500 test samples for the novel coronavirus were processed by the province's labs Thursday, while another 25,945 were added to the queue to be completed.
The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections rose to 66 from 60. Thirteen are being treated in intensive care units, and eight of those are on ventilators.
Ontario's official death toll actually dropped by one, down to 2,811 from 2,812 — likely the result of a double-counted death being removed from the the provincial data set. A CBC News count of deaths reported directly by public health units puts the real toll at 2,851.