Premier Ford takes questions as Ontario reports 1,478 new COVID-19 cases

Premier Doug Ford is holding a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. in Mississauga. 

At 3 p.m., Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, is set to provide a briefing on updated COVID-19 projections.

You can watch both live in this story.

Ontario reported another 1,478 cases of COVID-19 and 21 more deaths linked to the illness on Thursday. 

The new cases include 572 in Peel, a single-day record for the region, as well as 356 in Toronto and 111 in York. 

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

  • Waterloo Region: 64
  • Hamilton: 59
  • Durham Region: 47
  • Windsor-Essex: 42
  • Halton Region: 36
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 29
  • Ottawa: 24
  • Niagara Region: 23
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 18
  • Middlesex-London: 14
  • Huron Perth: 11

There are also 88 school-related infections, 70 students and 18 staff members. There are 679 publicly-funded schools in Ontario, or about 14 per cent, with at least one reported instance of COVID-19. Four schools are closed due to outbreaks.

[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’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.]

At Thursday afternoon’s daily press conference, Premier Doug Ford said the province is bringing additional resources to areas of the province it has deemed “high risk.”

That includes voluntary, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in schools in Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa.

The province has also earmarked $13.6 million in funding to provide extra support to school boards in Durham, Halton, Hamilton and Waterloo, Ford said.

“We have to be even more vigilant than ever,” Ford said.

The new cases drive the seven-day average up to 1,423 after two days of declines. 

There are 12,871 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, 92 more than yesterday. 

Ontario’s network of labs processed 47,576 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. 

The province’s official death toll now sits at 3,575.

The numbers come hours before the province is set to release new COVID-19 projections.

It will be the first time they have released such data since sending Toronto and Peel Region into lockdown earlier this week.

When asked in advance for his thoughts on the new modelling, Ford said he was concerned about what he’s seeing.

“I’m still concerned that the numbers are going to continue rising,” Ford said. “We can’t let our guard down for a second. We have to be vigilant.”

Two weeks ago, the province unveiled modelling that showed Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the province would reach 2,500 new daily cases by that time if the growth rate was at three per cent, or 6,500 if the growth rate was at five per cent.

At the time, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said a five per cent growth rate was “slightly optimistic.”

Premier Doug Ford announced he would lower thresholds for imposing stricter COVID-19 measures under the province’s colour-coded restrictions system the following day.

New COVID-19 projections for Ontario are expected later today. It would be the first updated outlook since Toronto and Peel moved into lockdown, and the threshold for the red alert level was lowered. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

New isolation centre in Peel

Also today, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced $6.5 million in funding for an isolation centre in Peel Region. The site will initially have 40 rooms, though there is capacity for as many as 80, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said. 

The money is meant to cover operational costs, as well as costs for transportation and social services, for up to 16 months. Anyone in the region with a confirmed case of COVID-19 who says they do not have the ability to self-isolate will be eligible to use the isolation centre, said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health. 

The announcement has drawn scrutiny because the facility will be in Mississauga, rather than Brampton. According to Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, the city is experiencing the highest test positivity rate in Canada and accounts for 62 per cent of all cases in the region.

Brown wrote to Hajdu this week about the “urgent need” for an isolation centre in Brampton.

Loh said the decision to put the initial site in Mississauga was about “expediency” but that more could be opened in Peel in the weeks to come.

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