Ontario sees 5,839 new cases of COVID-19 and 95 deaths over 2 days

Ontario is reporting a two-day total of 5,839 new cases of COVID-19 and 95 additional deaths.

Ontario’s health ministry did not release COVID-19 daily figures on New Year’s Day.

The province saw 2,476 cases on Friday and 3,363 cases on Saturday. 

Saturday’s figure is a new single-day record for the province. The previous record was set on Thursday when the ministry reported 3,328 novel coronavirus cases.

Altogther, the new cases bring the seven-day average to 2,236.

Saturday’s numbers include 713 new cases in Peel, 700 in Toronto, 395 in York Region, 226 in Windsor-Essex County and 171 in Hamilton.

Friday’s numbers include 480 in Peel, 499 in Toronto, 200 in York Region , 175 in Windsor-Essex County and 111 in Hamilton.

A total of 61,401 tests were completed as of Saturday and 70, 570 as of Friday.

The health ministry noted that the increase in cases on Saturday may have been the result of over-reported numbers stemming from data reporting problems.

“Due to a data issue, cases for Toronto Public Health were underreported on December 31 and overreported on January 1,” a spokesperson for the ministry said on Saturday.

There are currently 1,003 patients in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 322 are being treated in intensive care, the most at any time during the pandemic, and 220 require ventilators to breathe.

The province’s COVID-19 death toll has now reached 4,626, with a combined 95 deaths reported in the last two days.

York Region begins administering vaccine to workers

York Region Public Health says it has begun the process of delivering Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines to long-term care homes in the region on Saturday. 

“This is an exciting and hopeful step forward in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s medical officer of health, said in a news release on Saturday.

“By prioritizing vaccines for residents of long-term care homes, we are protecting some of our most vulnerable York Region residents,” Kurji said.

Staff at the homes will administer the vaccine on-site to their residents, the news release said.

“The vaccine will help to protect approximately 3,700 York Region long-term care residents in 28 homes,” it notes. 

“Sadly, to date, York Region has lost 257 residents to COVID-19 within institutional settings.”

As of Friday, the province has administered 33,191 vaccine doses, reaching a daily average of 4,305 doses a day.

Last week, Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading the province’s COVID-19 vaccination program, said the Moderna vaccine will be distributed to long-term care and retirement homes.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already being administered to health-care workers.

Ontario currently has 187 long-term care homes in outbreak with 1,186 residents and 1,050 staff members who have tested positive. A total of 2,749 residents have died. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Groups call on province to bring in military

Ontario Health Coalition, a non-profit organization that represents health-care professionals and patients, called Friday for military intervention to help control outbreaks of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

Natalie Mehra, the group’s executive director, said redeploying the Canadian Armed Forces to the hard-hit facilities is not the coalition’s first choice, but short-term options are scarce.

“The issue is that we’re in such an emergency,” Mehra said. “There are so many homes with outbreaks that are growing extremely quickly, the death counts are mounting, and the hospitals are overstretched now.”

Mehra said hospitals are treating a worrying number of patients, and some are experiencing outbreaks of their own.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), meanwhile, joined the coalition in calling for military intervention to curb infection outbreaks in long-term care homes and manage current outbreaks.

“We are tragically losing the battle to protect long-term care residents. The homes and staff are on the verge of total crisis and collapse,” Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer, said in a news release on Saturday.

“But military assistance is just a temporary solution to the worsening crisis caused by the government’s failure to implement immediate and meaningful reforms needed months ago. This kind of crisis cannot continue to be met with half measures by the province.”

There are currently 187 homes in outbreak with 1,186 residents and 1,050 staff members who have tested positive. A total of 2,749 residents have died.

Eight of the 15 Ontario healthcare staff who have died of COVID-19 worked in long-term care, CUPE said.

On Saturday, an outbreak was declared at the Pembroke Regional Hospital after a second employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The outbreak has been contained to the emergency department, where a positive case was first identified on Dec. 27, according to a news release from the hospital. 

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