Hospital figures reach pandemic highs as Ontario reveals more details about vaccine rollout

The Ontario government has unveiled a plan to vaccinate all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in the hard-hit areas of Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex by January 21.

The announcement comes amid mounting criticism around the pace of Ontario rollout of the vaccine, and on a day where the province saw more than 3000 new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations reached pandemic highs. 

Provincial health professionals have called for a “greater sense of urgency” in administering doses and have questioned why the province has only used about a third of its vaccine supply. 

At this point, the province has received 148,350 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in all. 

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, public health officials said, 50,495 people in Ontario had received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a total of 44 immunization sites. That figures includes more than 26,000 health-care workers in long-term care and retirement homes; about 20,700 other health-care workers; and nearly 1,000 residents of long-term care.

Further, nearly 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine have also been administered, members of the province’s vaccine distribution task force said at a morning briefing. About 4,000 additional doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to given out in 26 long-term care homes in the first half of this week, they said.

Pfizer vs. Moderna

The Pfizer-BioNTech shot is largely being given out in hospitals to health-care workers due to its storage requirements, while the Moderna shot is being used in long-term care homes.

The officials said today, however, that a pilot project is currently underway in Ottawa to explore how the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be brought into long-term care facilities to accelerate its delivery. Protocols will be developed this week, the officials said.

Meanwhile, doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to begin arriving in some Indigenous communities this week. A collaboration between Ornge, Ontario’s air ambulance service, and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation will see doses distributed to 31 mainly remote communities in the coming weeks. 

Health-care workers administering the immunizations will be vaccinated beforehand, officials said.

You can read a summary of the province’s updated vaccine rollout plan at the bottom of this story.

7-day case average tops 3000

Ontario reported another 3,128 cases of COVID-19 and 51 more deaths of people with the illness on Tuesday, as the number of active infections and hospitalizations in the province both reached pandemic highs.

There are now 25,840 confirmed, active cases of the illness throughout Ontario, and the seven-day average of new daily cases surpassed 3,000 for the first time.

Further, there are 1,347 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, 157 more than yesterday, which was the previous record.

Of those, 352 are being treated in intensive care and 245 require the use of a ventilator, both also all-time highs in Ontario.

Public health officials have said that about 350 admissions to Ontario’s ICUs is the threshold for when hospitals must begin postponing or even cancelling non-COVID-19 related care and procedures.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed just 35,152 test samples for the novel coronavirus — despite capacity for tens of thousands more — and reported a test positivity rate of 9.4 per cent.

The new cases reported today include 778 in Toronto, 614 in Peel Region, 213 in York Region, 172 in Durham Region and 151 each in Middlesex-London and Hamilton.

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

  • Windsor-Essex: 142
  • Waterloo Region: 129
  • Halton Region: 128
  • Ottawa: 126
  • Niagara Region: 101
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 72
  • Lambton: 62
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 46
  • Eastern Ontario: 45
  • Chatham-Kent: 39
  • Southwestern: 35
  • Brant County: 29
  • Huron Perth: 21
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 18

(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.) 

Combined, the new cases reported today push the seven-day average to 3,065.

No Ford news conference today

Notably, Premier Doug Ford is not currently scheduled to hold a news conference today. It has been 14 days since Ford last took questions from media. 

During that time in Ontario, there have been more than 37,000 new COVID-19 cases, the number of people hospitalized has increased by 34 per cent and 542 more people have died.

Ford also hasn’t answered detailed questions about the actions of his former finance minister, Rod Phillips, who travelled to St. Bart’s over the holidays and resigned after returning home to Ontario. 

Field hospital opens in Burlington

Ontario’s first field hospital built during the pandemic is taking patients this week as COVID-19 infections strain the health-care system.

The Burlington facility, built on the grounds of Joseph Brant Hospital, was ready to treat patients as of Monday.

The hospital said it’s responding to increased pressure on hospital capacity across the southern Ontario region that includes Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand County and Burlington.

Rob MacIsaac, CEO of Hamilton Health Sciences, said opening the field hospital is a necessary step as the health-care system is stretched to its limits.

Hospitals in the region are identifying patients whose care has progressed enough to be treated at the field unit, after consulting with their families.

The field hospital was built in April as part of the hospital network’s capacity plan.

A summary of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan:

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