Ontario sees 2,202 new COVID-19 cases with lockdown looming

Ontario reported another 2,202 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday as the number of patients with the illness in intensive care climbed to its highest at any point during the pandemic.

It’s the eighth consecutive day of more than 2,000 new cases in Ontario, and comes one day after Premier Doug Ford announced a provincewide shutdown set to begin on Boxing Day.

According to Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), there are now 285 people with COVID-19 being treated in intensive care units. The previous high of 284 came in April, during the first wave of the pandemic.

The ICU figures from the CCSO were posted publicly to Twitter by members of the Ontario Hospital Association. The numbers in CCSO reports often vary slightly from those in the province’s daily COVID-19 updates because of differences in how each is compiled. Even by the province’s official numbers, however, ICU admissions are at a record high.

There are now 1,005 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 90 more than in yesterday’s provincial update. It also marks the first time that figure has surpassed 1,000 since May. During the peak of the first wave of the illness in Ontario, 1,043 COVID-19 patients were in hospital.

In a briefing yesterday, public health officials said that in the last four weeks there has been a 69.3 per cent increase in overall hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19, and an 83.1 per cent jump in the number of patients requiring intensive care. Under any modelling scenario, ICU admissions are expected to exceed 300 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, today’s new cases include 636 in Toronto, 504 in Peel Region, 218 in York Region, 172 in Windsor-Essex and 101 in Waterloo Region. 

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

  • Hamilton: 95
  • Middlesex-London: 93
  • Durham Region: 86
  • Halton Region: 48
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 46
  • Niagara Region: 41
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 34
  • Southwestern: 23
  • Ottawa: 19
  • Lambton: 15
  • Huron Perth: 14

(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 seven-day average of new daily cases dropped somewhat to 2,266.

At a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford called on the federal government to implement pre-departure testing for travelers to Canada in light of a rapidly-spreading variant of the virus in the United Kingdom.

“It’s a massive threat that we can’t take lightly,” he said at a news conference.

“Everyday we delay it, thousands of people are landing,” said Ford. 

Just one travel-related case of the virus have been identified in the last day. That’s compared with 561 cases resulting from close contact. 

WATCH | Ontario premier presses Ottawa to test for COVID-19 at airports:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says residents of Ontario are at great risk because the federal government is not doing enough to protect them from threats that come from outside Canada’s borders. 1:03

“We haven’t seen this mutated strain in Ontario yet,” Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters. She said the mutated strain is believed to be 70 per cent more transmissible than the current version of the novel coronavirus.

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe added this particular mutation was in fact first identified in the fall, but has seen significant spread in England in recent weeks. Yaffe also stressed there is no evidence to suggest the COVID-19 vaccines will be any less effective against it.

In the past day, Ontario has identified just one case of COVID-19 related to travel. (Government of Ontario)

On Tuesday, the province announced parents of secondary school will be eligible for a one-time payment of $200 per child to help offset education expenses. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said applications for the funding will be open from Jan. 11 to Feb. 8.

The government previously announced similar funding for younger students in its latest budget. 

The province also announced a freeze on electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents/kWh for a period of 28-days for residential, small business and farm customers paying regular rates.

There are currently 19,300 confirmed, active cases of the illness in Ontario, also a new record high. 

They come as the province’s network of labs processed 45,265 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of five per cent. Another 47,872 tests are in the queue to be completed.

The province recorded an additional 21 deaths of people with COVID-19, bringing the official toll to 4,188.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave, Ford and other Ontario health officials have suggested they were seeing the rate of increase slow down or plateau.

That still hasn’t happened, and now the province is moving into another lockdown.

Here’s a look at some of those comments and when they were made, compared with the climbing case numbers.

(CBC News)

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