During a livestream press conference Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said the province is doing everything it can to source personal protective equipment for health-care workers.
He also highlighted a new one-time payment being offered to Ontario families as part of the province's COVID-19 response.
Premier Doug Ford said this morning Ontario has about a week's supply of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in its stockpile after the U.S. blocked a shipment of three million masks to the province yesterday.
Speaking with Global News Toronto, Ford said a shipment of three million medical masks bound for Ontario was stopped at the border on Sunday.
“We had three million masks stopped at the border this weekend coming up to Canada. That's unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable that they're doing this,” Ford said in an interview with Global News.
This blocked shipment means Ontario only has about a week's supply of masks and other PPE for health care workers.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump used the 1950 Defense Production Act to direct the government to buy up N95 respirator masks from 3M and its subsidiaries, and asked the Minnesota company to stop exporting masks outside the U.S.
The company disagreed with this, saying the consequences could have "significant humanitarian implications."
Ford said Canada is working with the U.S. to try to come up with some kind of exemption to the U.S. move, so PPE can still flow into Canada from south of the border.
Today, Ford said Ontario is doing everything it can to source PPE.
"Our supplies are strained right at this moment. As demand escalates, getting supplies from other countries is becoming increasingly difficult," he said.
"We are doing everything in our power, exhausting every avenue available to us, turning over every single stone. But the hard truth is our supplies in Ontario are getting very low."
This makes it all the more important for the public to follow the direction of medical experts, the premier said: stay home; go out only when you need to; don't gather in groups bigger than five people.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, is now recommending people wear masks, even homemade ones, when out in public, particularly when going into stores.
While homemade masks offer minimal protection for contracting the virus, they are effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from spreading the virus.
Today Ford also unveiled the Support for Families initiative, a one-time financial assistance the province is providing to families of young children and families of children with developmental disabilities.
The new initiative is a one-time payment to families of $200 per child 0 to 12 years of age, and $250 for those 0 to 21 years of age with special needs.
"During this extraordinary time, we're doing everything we can to support parents to keep everyone safe and ensure our children continue to learn and stay mentally active," said Ford.
"This one-time funding will allow parents to access additional tools for our kids to use while at home and studying remotely. I want to remind everyone to stay at home and only go out if absolutely necessary. It's the only way we are going to defeat this terrible virus."
Families can complete a simple online application at Ontario's Support for Families web page here (https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-support-families) to access this financial support.
If you are already receiving Support for Parents payments (https://www.ontario.ca/page/education-contract-talks-stay-updated) through direct deposit, you will be automatically eligible for this financial support and do not need to submit a new application.
E-learning for Ontario students has also begun.
Public schools will remain closed to teachers until May 1 and to students until May 4. Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, according to the Declaration of Emergency, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time.
Ontario launched the second phase of Learn at Home (https://www.ontario.ca/page/learn-at-home) and Apprendre Ã la maison, a new online portal that provides resources for families so students can continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.