Ontario sees 4,447 new COVID-19 cases as admissions to ICUs top 750

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is scheduled to hold a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the province at 3 p.m. ET.

You’ll be able to watch it live in this story.

Ontario reported another 4,447 cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths of people with the illness on Monday, while the number of hospitalizations topped 2,200. 

It’s the sixth straight day of more than 4,000 new infections in the province. 

They come as labs completed 42,873 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a positivity rate of 10.5 per cent — the highest since Ontario began reporting the measure last April.

There are 2,202 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those, 755 are being treated for COVID-related critical illnesses in intensive care units. A total of 516 patients require a ventilator to breathe.

All three figures are new pandemic highs for Ontario. Health officials warned last week that admissions to hospitals and ICUs are expected to continue to rise for the next several weeks, as they are lagging indicators to the explosive growth in cases this month. 

WATCH | Ontario doctors prepare to use triage protocol:

With Ontario’s intensive care units approaching a breaking point, doctors are preparing to use triage protocols to determine which of the sickest patients there is capacity to save. 7:16

Public health units collectively administered just 66,897 doses of vaccines yesterday, the fewest in two weeks. As of last evening, some 346,005 people in the province had received both doses.

Ontario has given out 3,904,778, or about 80 per cent, of the 4,852,885 total doses of vaccines it has received thus far.

Provincial health officials said early last week that public health units have combined capacity to administer up to 150,000 shots per day. Then during a news on Friday, Ontario’s Chief Medical of Health Dr. David Williams repeatedly said the province could be doing up to 500,000 shots daily, though it is unclear how he arrived at that figure, as no government official had cited it publicly before.

CBC Toronto has reached out to the government for clarification on the discrepancy between the numbers.

Meanwhile, Williams confirmed this morning that starting tomorrow, Ontario will begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to adults aged 40 and older. The vaccine had previously been limited to those 55 and up. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec have also said they would lower age requirements for the vaccine.

About 1,400 pharmacies throughout the province are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as some primary care physicians in six public health units.

The new cases reported today include:

  • 1,229 in Toronto
  • 926 in Peel Region
  • 577 in York Region
  • 233 in Ottawa
  • 227 in Hamilton
  • 205 in Durham Region
  • 203 in Niagara Region
  • 169 in Halton Region
  • 114 in Simcoe Muskoka

The seven-day average of daily cases rose slightly to 4,348. While it is too soon to draw conclusions, it does appear that a month-long period of exponential growth in the seven-day average has slowed.

The 19 additional deaths in today’s update pushed the official toll to 7,735. The seven-day average of deaths stands at 24.

Back to online learning

Students across Ontario returned to the virtual classroom this morning as school buildings remain shuttered following the spring break.

The provincial government announced the move to remote learning early last week as it dealt with a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

It also announced a suite of new measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, including limiting interprovincial travel.

Checkpoints are set up at interprovincial border crossings and only those coming into Ontario for work, medical care, transportation of goods and exercising Indigenous treaty rights are allowed through.

The province held firm to that measure over the weekend, despite walking back other public health rules that were announced at the same time Friday.

Premier Doug Ford on Saturday reversed his decision to shutter playgrounds, following a swift backlash from parents and public health experts alike. They said the move was unlikely to curb the spread of COVID-19, as evidence suggests most transmission happens indoors.

WATCH | Director of Ontario’s COVID-19 science table disappointed with new measures:

Ontario needs to pay workers who are sick, or who have been exposed to COVID-19, to stay home, says Dr. Peter Jüni of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. Forget political considerations and wishful thinking, and just do it, the doctor says. 13:24

The government did, however, keep in place a number of controversial limitations on outdoor activities. In an interview with CBC News Network today, the director of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table said the restrictions were the “opposite” of what the group of experts recommended to cabinet.

Dr. Peter Jüni, who is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto, said the new round of measures failed to address the root causes driving the growth in cases in Ontario.

“Right now we have a pandemic that is focused on essential workers and their families,” he said. “We need to pay people in an uncomplicated and efficient manner to stay home.”

The science table and other health experts have repeatedly called for Ford and his cabinet to institute a provincially-run paid sick leave program. The federal counterpart, the Canadian Recovery Sickness Benefit, is “too complicated, not enough and the help comes too late,” Jüni said.

Ford and Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton have urged Ontarians to rely on the federal program, saying the province wants to avoid duplication. A frustrated Jüni said that “political considerations” are behind the government’s refusal to take the science table’s advice.

“I don’t think we can be any clearer: this is not a problem at the sending in, it’s a problem at the receiving end. We need to stop having political considerations guide this pandemic (response),” he told host Heather Hiscox.

“This does not work. It hasn’t worked in the past, it won’t work now. It hasn’t worked in other jurisdictions and it wont work in Ontario.”

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