Ontario sees 1,185 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more deaths

Ontario reported another 1,185 cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of six more people with the illness on Tuesday.

The new cases include 343 in Toronto and 235 in Peel Region, where stay-at-home orders were lifted yesterday as the health units moved into the grey “lockdown” phase of the province’s restrictions system.

York Region logged 105 further cases, while the following public health units saw double-digit increases:

  • Hamilton: 81
  • Halton Region: 48
  • Waterloo Region: 46
  • Ottawa: 45
  • Thunder Bay: 39
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 30
  • Windsor-Essex: 30
  • Durham Region: 25
  • Sudbury: 24
  • Niagara Region: 22
  • Middlesex-London: 21
  • Lambton: 14
  • Chatham-Kent: 11
  • Eastern Ontario: 10
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 10

(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 on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)

The seven-day average of new daily cases in the province climbed to 1,187.

Ontario’s lab network completed 33,264 test samples for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 3.7 per cent — the highest it has been on a single day in two weeks.

Labs also confirmed, through whole genomic sequencing, another 29 cases of the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, bringing the total in Ontario so far to 908.

The per cent positivity of positive samples screened for variants of concern continued its overall upward trend.

On Sunday, the most recent day for which data is available, 861 positive tests were analyzed for the tell-tale mutation that indicates a possible variant of concern. Of those, 261, or 32.2 per cent, had the mutation. Those samples are then sent for whole genomic sequencing, a more technically intensive process that can pinpoint which variant of concern is present.

The Ministry of Education reported 263 more school-related cases that were confirmed from last Friday afternoon through Monday afternoon. A total of 209 were students, while 45 were staff members and nine were people who were not identified.

Thirty-four schools, or about 0.7 per cent of all publicly-funded schools in Ontario, are currently closed due to the illness, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, both the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals and in intensive care ticked up, to 689 and 290, respectively. Of those being treated in ICUs, 184 required a ventilator to breathe, according to the Ministry of Health.

The six additional deaths in today’s report push the official toll to 7,083.

Ontario’s immunization campaign continued, with 31, 047 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered yesterday. A total of 276,193 people have now received both shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Proof of pre-existing illness not required for shot

Ontarians won’t be asked to provide proof of their pre-existing health conditions to access a COVID-19 vaccine during the second phase of the province’s immunization effort, the health minister said yesterday.

Christine Elliott said she believes most people will come to clinics when they are permitted and not take advantage of the honour system. Vaccinations in the broader public are expected to ramp up in the coming weeks following the approval of a fourth vaccine and larger shipments coming into the country.

Vaccines will be offered starting in April to people with specific health conditions, like organ transplant recipients, those living with obesity and those receiving treatments that suppress the immune system.

Elliott said local public health units will screen people as they arrive at the clinics and may be able to check with a person’s family physician, but that will not be mandatory.

“We haven’t run into very many of those situations,” she said. “People are following the rules, they are coming in at the appropriate time, they’re being very patient, and they want to make sure that people who are the most at risk are going to be given their vaccinations first.”

A spokeswoman for Elliott later noted that many individuals with pre-existing health conditions may not use the province’s upcoming vaccine booking portal or have appointments at mass vaccination sites.

“Most of these vaccinations will be administered through other channels, such as specialty clinics or through their existing health care providers who already have the individual’s health records on hand,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement.

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