New COVID-19 restrictions are likely to be implemented later this week in three Ontario regions consistently seeing the most new cases, Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday.
At his daily news conference, Ford called the numbers in Toronto and Peel and York regions “extremely, extremely concerning” and said that those three regions are “staring down the barrel of another lockdown.”
Ford added that his cabinet will be discussing new public health measures for those regions in coming days, and they could be announced on Friday.
“We have to do something,” he said.
Ontario reported an additional 1,417 cases of COVID-19 this morning, as well as 32 more deaths linked to the illness — the most on any single day during the second wave of the pandemic that’s currently gripping parts of the province.
The new cases include 463 in Peel, 410 in Toronto and 178 in York.
They push the seven-day average of daily cases, a measure that helps to paint a clearer picture of longer-term trends in the data, to 1,422.
Other regions that saw double-digit increases in today’s report include:
- Halton Region: 63
- Waterloo: 54
- Hamilton: 46
- Durham: 40
- Simcoe Muskoka: 25
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 23
- Ottawa: 22
- Thunder Bay: 20
- Windsor: 17
- Southwestern: 14
Some 109 of today’s new cases are school-related: 92 students and 17 staff. A total of 670, or about 13.9 per cent, of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools have reported at least one case of COVID-19. Three schools provincewide are currently closed because of the illness.
No extended winter break: education minister
Given the current numbers, students in Ontario will not have an extended winter break this year, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced today.
“We have consulted with the chief medical officer of health as well as the Public Health Measures Table and have determined that an extended winter holiday is not necessary at this time, given Ontario’s strong safety protocols, low levels of transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce said in a news release.
He suggested that yesterday that the government was in talks with health experts about possibly keeping schools closed for a period in early January. Classes would have continued at the normal time, but would have been conducted virtually.
Despite “increased rates of community transmission” of the novel coronavirus, Lecce said today in explaining his decision, schools have been “remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks.”
Hospitalizations continue steady rise
Toronto, Peel, York, Halton and Hamilton are the public health units currently in the province’s red “control” tier of its colour-coded COVID-19 restrictions framework.
Another seven are in the less-stringent orange “restrict” tier:
- Eastern Ontario
And yet another seven are in the yellow “protect” category:
There are currently 12,822 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, 110 fewer than yesterday. Today is the first time in about a month that the number of recoveries, 1,495, has outpaced new infections.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 33,440 test samples, leading public health officials to report a test positivity rate of 4.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed to 535, up six from yesterday. Of those, 127 are being treated in intensive care and 78 are on ventilators, three more than yesterday. A total of 38 patients with the novel coronavirus have been admitted to intensive care in the last three days.
The province’s COVID-19-linked death toll grew to 3,415. The 32 additional deaths reported today is the most on a single day since June 6.
A total of 29 of the deaths were seniors over the age of 70, while 26 of those 29 were residents in long-term care.[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times in the provincial system.]
Vaccine doses coming early next year
Health Minister Christine Elliot revealed this morning that Ontario expects up to 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered between January and March.
Speaking at Queen’s Park, Elliott said about 1.8 million of the six million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine heading to Canada will be distributed in Ontario during that time, and 800,000 doses of the two million Moderna is expected to provide will also be available.
Canada has already purchased 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, with an option for 56 million more doses.
Public health officials in Ontario have already said that the first vaccines available in Ontario will go to priority groups, such as front-line health-care workers and particularly vulnerable residents.
Elliott stressed that Pfizer’s vaccine, which the company said today has shown up to 95 per cent efficacy, must be stored at nearly –80 C, creating a huge logistical challenge. Moderna’s vaccine, reported to be about 94.5 per cent effective based on preliminary data, must be kept at –20 C.
Those receiving the vaccine must get two doses, administered 21 days apart.