Ontario reported another 3,480 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the Ministry of Health announced an emergency order that will allow hospitals to transfer some patients to long-term care or retirement homes without their consent.
At a morning news conference, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the move will allow hospitals to make room for a continued influx of COVID-19 patients amid the third wave gripping the province.
Transfers will only be considered for patients whose doctors have determined they no longer require hospital care, Elliott said.
“Every effort to speak with the person and their family to obtain their consent” for the transfer will be made, she added, but in “extremely rare” instances it could be done without it.
Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson said the order will only be used in hospitals seeing major surges, and officials will try to ensure patients are sent to long-term care or retirement facilities nearby their families and communities.
“We don’t want it used,” Anderson said, stressing it is intended for limited circumstances.
Anyone transferred without consent or to a facility that is not their first choice will retain their place in line for their preferred home, and the province will wave the patient’s co-pay until they can be moved to their favoured facility.
Hospitals will try to fully immunize patients before they are moved, Elliott said.
As of yesterday, there were 877 people with COVID-related critical illnesses being treated in Ontario’s intensive care units. Of those, 605 required a ventilator to breathe. Both figures are highs for the pandemic.
The new cases reported today include:
- 961 in Toronto (the first time in two and a half weeks the city has reported fewer than 1,000 additional infections)
- 589 in Peel Region
- 290 in York Region
- 221 in Durham Region
- 180 in Ottawa
- 116 in Halton Region
Niagara Region also reported 341 further cases and Hamilton 255. In an email, the Ministry of Health said that a “data catch-up process” resulted in artificially inflated numbers in some public health units in the Central West Region, which includes both Niagara and Hamilton. It is not clear how many older cases were included in the data, however.
The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 3,783. It has been trending downward for 11 days since its high of 4,370 on April 17.
Labs completed 50,194 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a provincewide positivity rate of 7.2 per cent.
An updated analysis by Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table shows that the provincewide R value, a measure of how many people on average a single case will go on to infect with the coronavirus, recently fell below one. An R value less than one suggests case growth is slowing rather than accelerating.
The table called it an “early, early sign” that Ontario appears to be “heading in the right direction” when it comes to transmission of the virus.
During the morning news conference, Anderson cautioned that while growth in new cases may be slowing it will take at least several weeks before the impact of that trend could be felt in hospitals.
Variants of concern — which now account for an estimated 95 per cent of all new infections in the province, according to the science table — are making people sicker than the earlier variants that dominated the first and second waves of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, public health units collectively administered 116,173 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday. As of last night, 365,166 people in Ontario had gotten both shots.
The province has used 4,907,203, or about 87 per cent, of the 5,637,955 doses it has received to date. Just more than 389,600 of those total doses arrived in Ontario overnight.
Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, told CBC News today that eight pharmacies each in Toronto and Peel Region are expected begin offering shots of the Pfizer vaccine as early as next week. All 16 pharmacies are located in provincially-designated hot spot postal codes.
Thus far, pharmacies have only offered the AstraZeneca vaccine. Bates said he anticipates pharmacies will run out of AstraZeneca doses by the weekend.