Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital is facing an outbreak of COVID-19 as Ontario reported 105 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, a fourth straight day in the triple digits for the province.
The hospital says it has identified a total of four cases, after recently detecting a positive case in one of its units. When that was confirmed, the hospital says it rapidly tested all patients in the unit and identified the three other infections.
Two of those four patients remain at the hospital, while all other patients in the unit have tested negative for COVID-19.
“When an outbreak is declared, affected patients are isolated immediately, and control measures are put in place, including staff being dedicated to the unit and following strict precautions, increased surveillance, testing and enhanced cleaning measures,” says a statement on the hospital’s website.
Sunnybrook remains open with procedures operating as usual and remains safe for patients and visitors, the statement says.
Monday’s 0.3 per cent increase in total cases across Ontario comes as the province’s network of labs processed just under 18,800 tests on Sunday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a series of tweets.
“I’m watching it like a hawk,” said Premier Doug Ford at his daily news conference.
Ford pointed out that 75 of the new cases are limited to three regions: Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto.
If you take those three away, Ford said, “the province and the people are doing great,” with thirty of the province’s 34 health units reporting five or fewer cases of the illness in today’s update.
Are young people getting ‘more casual’ about distancing?
Ottawa reported 24 new cases, Peel Region 21, and in the city of Toronto there were 30 new cases. Most of the people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus are in 20-39 age group — a consistent trend observed in recent weeks.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the overall picture remains “reassuring” despite the return to new case numbers in the low triple digits.
He did express concern that some young people are starting to get “more casual” about physical distancing and public health rules — and says he’s worried about how the return to post-secondary institutions will affect that.
“We’re trying to look at different strategies” to communicate with young people, Williams said.
“We want to be targeting our message very carefully.”
Concerns about in-class time for high school students
At Monday’s news conference, Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce also fielded questions about the preparations for back to school, including the push to get high school students into physical classrooms for at least half of their learning day.
Lecce told reporters that the province has spent “hundreds of hours” working with school boards to help them get there.
In the case of the York Region District School Board, Lecce said the target of 50 per cent in-class instruction has been hit, an “improvement” from that board’s previous plan, which saw the percentage of in-class instruction at closer to 25 per cent.
When pressed, however, Lecce said that improvement includes using a “study hall model,” in which students are in schools but voluntarily work on assignments independently.
York parents expressed concerns to CBC Toronto about the plan earlier this month, saying they were expecting more face-to-face learning time for their children.
Province looking at asymptomatic testing in drugstores
Ford said Monday the province is also looking at bringing asymptomatic testing to drugstores, similar to a planned initiative in Alberta.
Starting Sept 1. in that province, pharmacies owned by Loblaws, including Shoppers Drug Mart and Superstore, will offer asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
“We have been discussing this for a little while,” said Ford, who said Loblaws CEO Galen Weston has been “cooperative.”
Monday’s COVID-19 data also shows one fewer person is in the hospital, bringing current number of hospitalizations down to 40. However, one additional person has been put on a ventilator. There are now seven patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 being ventilated in the province.
Ontario has now seen a total of 41,507 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January, with more than 90 per cent of those now considered resolved.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 2,798 people, according to the province’s official reporting system. However a CBC News count based on data from public health units puts the actual toll at 2,834.
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.