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Ontario to begin vaccinations next week in Toronto, Ottawa

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is scheduled to provide an updated COVID-19 modelling projections at a news conference scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.

You can watch it live in this story.

Ontario will administer its first COVID-19 vaccines next Tuesday at two hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa, the province confirmed Thursday as it recorded a record high number of new daily cases.

The first vaccines will go to health-care workers at long-term care homes and other high-risk places, Premier Doug Ford said in a news release.

More details are set to be provided on Friday, Ford’s statement said.

Toronto has been hard hit during the first and second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ottawa, which recorded just 56 new cases on Thursday, was selected in part to “test and validate provincial distribution networks, as well as in recognition of the challenges the region has faced with certain long-term care home outbreaks,” the premier said.

Ontario reported single-day highs of 1,983 new COVID-19 cases and nearly 62,000 tests earlier Thursday.

The additional cases include 515 in Peel Region, 496 in Toronto, 208 in York Region and 112 in Windsor-Essex.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Hamilton: 75
  • Waterloo Region: 65
  • Middlesex-London: 61
  • Ottawa: 56
  • Durham Region: 55
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 55
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 54
  • Halton Region: 51
  • Niagara Region: 35
  • Eastern Ontario: 23
  • Southwestern: 17
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington: 17
  • Thunder Bay: 13
  • Brant County: 11
  • Renfrew County: 11

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

The Ministry of Education also reported 139 new cases that are school-related: 111 students and 28 staff members. Some 878 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 18.2 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 10 schools are currently closed because of the illness.

The new cases push the seven-day average to 1,862, the highest it has been since the first instance of COVID-19 was reported in Ontario in late January.

There are currently 16,233 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus province-wide, the most at any point during the pandemic. 

They come as Ontario’s network of labs processed 61,809 test samples for the novel coronavirus — the most on a single day by a considerable margin — and reported a test positivity rate of 3.6 per cent. Another 66,326 test samples are in the queue waiting to be analyzed.

Furthermore, hospitalization figures all hit second-wave highs in today’s update. There are now 829 patients with cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals. Of those, 228 are being treated in intensive care units, while 132 people require the use of a ventilator.

Ontario also recorded 35 more deaths linked to the illness, bringing the official total to 3,871. 

Premier Ford not holding news conference

For a third straight day, Premier Doug Ford is not scheduled to take any questions from media. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford has typically made himself and often top cabinet ministers available to answer queries from reporters.

In a story published this morning, CTV News reported that Ford’s office said he would no longer be doing daily news conferences, opting instead to face media only when he “has an update for Ontarians.”

CBC News reached out Ford’s office for confirmation, but the premier’s spokesperson declined to directly answer the query, saying only that Ford would be attending the first ministers meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later today.

Earlier this week, the Ontario legislature adjourned for the holidays earlier than expected and lawmakers won’t return until mid-February, meaning the government will not face public questioning from the opposition parties until then.

Updated COVID-19 projections expected today

Meanwhile, the Ontario government will provide new COVID-19 projections later today.

The province’s chief medical officer of health said earlier this week that the data will indicate whether lockdowns in Toronto and Peel Region that started two weeks ago are working.

The last round of projections showed case rates had plateaued, but hospitals faced increasing strain due to the pandemic.

Experts described the data two weeks ago as showing Ontario was in a “fragile or precarious situation.”

Those figures also showed the number of patients in intensive care units had passed the threshold where surgeries may need to be cancelled.

Projections released early last month suggested Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases by mid-December unless steps were taken to limit the spread of the virus.

Outbreaks at Mississauga hospitals

A hospital network in Mississauga in Peel Region has closed some of its units to admissions after 36 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Trillium Health Partners said all three of its facilities are experiencing outbreaks, which have also sickened 10 patients.

The outbreaks include the Credit Valley Hospital’s emergency department and medicine unit, as well the Mississauga Hospital’s cardiac surgical ICU and another unit.

The outbreaks also include two floors at Queensway Health Care in Toronto.

The hospital network said the emergency department at Credit Valley, where four health-care workers tested positive, remains open and safe.

All affected staff are isolating at home, a spokesperson for the health network said.

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