Ontario records 3,056 new cases of COVID-19 as vaccination plan faces roadblock

Ontario is tweaking its vaccination plan to deal with a looming shortage of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the province recorded 3,056 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

To add to the concern, there are now a record 420 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, new data from Critical Care Services Ontario shows. Provincial data is slightly behind but shows 1,632 people are hospitalized with the novel coronavirus and at least 281 of those patients require a ventilator. 

The province also recorded 51 more deaths, a day after reporting a record 100 deaths Friday. In total, 5,340 Ontarians with COVID-19 have died since the start of the pandemic early last year.

At least 27 of those deaths took place in long-term care homes. Currently, 246 long-term care homes in the province are dealing with an outbreak — nearly 40 per cent of all facilities.

The seven-day average of new cases declined to 3,218, and the provincewide test positivity rate was 4.9 per cent, with 73,875 tests completed. A further 3,212 cases were marked resolved.

There are 903 new COVID-19 cases in Toronto, 629 in Peel Region, 283 in York Region, 162 in Durham Region and 152 in Ottawa.

A stay-at-home order remains in effect.

Health Minister Christine Elliott continued to urge people to stay inside and away from others as much as possible. 

“Stay home, stay safe, save lives,” she said on Twitter.

This is the first weekend the order has been in place, and questions continue to swirl about how it will go — including how police will enforce the rules.

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician, spoke with CBC News Network about his concerns that people of colour or those dealing with poverty will face the brunt of the crackdown.

WATCH | Policing Ontario’s lockdown order will hurt racialized communities, doctor says:

Advocates worry police will come down hard on already vulnerable communities, doing more damage than helping the cause. ‘We cannot police our way out of this pandemic,’ palliative physician Dr. Naheed Dosani said. 7:08

2nd vaccine dose delayed

Elliott said the province has now administered 189,090 vaccines in the province. However, the vaccine rollout will soon face another hurdle.

The federal government announced Friday that Pfizer-BioNTech will deliver fewer vaccines to Canada in the near future as it reworks some of its production lines.

In Ontario, provincial health officials say the first phase of the vaccination plan will continue, but the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine will now be pushed back from 21 to 27 days for those in long-term care or retirement homes, or for those caring for seniors.

Other recipients, such as health-care workers, will see their second dose pushed back to between 21 and 42 days after the first jab.

Those who received the Moderna vaccine will see no change, as the second dose of that vaccine is delivered 28 days after the first.

Enforcement blitz at big box stores

Shoppers stocking up at big box stores in the Greater Toronto Area could see provincial inspectors this weekend.

The government said earlier this week that 50 inspectors will be out to ensure big box stores are complying with the province’s new rules. Walmart and Costco, for example, have been able to stay open during Ontario’s lockdown, while most small stores have been reduced to curbside pickup.

The inspectors, who will be joined by local bylaw and police officers, have recently been invested with the authority to fine individuals — both employees and customers — up to $750 for failing to wear masks properly and to physically distance.

Inspectors will also be checking to ensure that big box retailers are actively maintaining in-store capacity at a maximum of 25 per cent, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said.

“If these conditions are not met, I will not hesitate to shut down any big box store anywhere in this province,” McNaughton said earlier this week.

The enforcement is taking place primarily in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel Region, York Region and Durham Region.

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