COVID-19: The week in review (December 7-11)

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Dec 11, 2020

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This article was last updated on Friday at 4:13 p.m.

TVO.org reporters and editors are tracking stories about the coronavirus pandemic in all regions of the province. Here's what Ontarians need to know. 

Provincewide

  • Per Friday's government report, there are 1,848 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 136,631 since the pandemic began; 808 people are in hospital, 235 of them in intensive care and 124 on ventilators. To date, 3,916 people have died. 
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 131 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 604 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 632 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 2,366 confirmed resident deaths and eight confirmed staff deaths.

  • As of December 11, in publicly funded schools, there are 125 new school-related student cases (for a total of 4,212), 26 new school-related staff cases (for a total of 915), and no new cases in "individuals not identified" (for a total of 1,090); 878 schools have a reported case, and 11 are currently closed.

  • On Friday, the Ontario government announced that it is moving seven public-health regions to new levels with stronger public health measures, including Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and York Region Public Health into Grey/Lockdown effective Monday, December 14, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. According to the press release, Middlesex-London Health Unit; Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit; and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health will move into Red/Control. Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move into Orange/Restrict and Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit will move into Yellow/Protect.

  • On Thursday, the Ontario government announced an extension of all COVID-19 related emergency orders in force under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 (ROA) until January 20, 2021. “This extension will support the safe delivery of health care and other critical services until COVID-19 vaccines are approved and widely available,” a press release states. According to reports by CTV, the extension of the emergency orders does not change the length of the lockdown in Toronto and Peel Region.

  • The Ontario government announced on December 9 that it is investing more than $5 million through the Ontario Together Fund to help three companies create jobs by designing and producing respirators and surgical masks for frontline and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • On December 8, the Ontario legislature adjourned for 2020. “Over the past year, the government moved quickly to implement measures to enable the Legislative Assembly to operate safely, including the introduction of physically distanced summer meetings of the Assembly. These measures allowed the government to work quickly to respond to the pandemic,” states a press release. The legislature will not resume until February 2021. 

  • The Ontario government introduced the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act, 2020  on December 8 that would, if passed, protect employers from an unexpected increase in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums, while maintaining an increase to the maximum earnings cap for worker benefits.

  • The Ontario government says that it is ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are received, beginning with vaccinating vulnerable populations and those who care for them. “As recommended by the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force and in alignment with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, the province has identified key populations to receive the vaccine first, including long-term care and retirement home residents and the staff who provide care to these groups,” states a press release. Groups receiving the early vaccine doses in the first few months of the Ontario immunization program will include adults living in Indigenous communities, including remote communities where risk of transmission is high.

  • The province released new modelling Thursday. Read what it has to say about case counts, intensive-care capacity, and the government’s handling of the second wave on TVO.org
  • Ford has called a halt to the daily COVID-19 briefings that he’s been holding since March, CTV News reports.

  • According to a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute, 55 per cent of Ontarians believe the province is doing a good job handling the COVID-19 response, while 44 per cent think it’s doing a poor one.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to data as of December 11, there are 502 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 47,609 since the pandemic began; 279 of them are in hospital. In total, 1,703 people have died.
  • Yesterday, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a report detailing the financial hardships that municipalities like the City of Toronto are facing due to COVID-19. According to the report, Toronto has been hit harder financially than any other municipality in Ontario, in both total and per capita financial impacts.

  • EllisDon has confirmed that 15 workers at a construction site at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital have tested positive, CP24 reports.

  • The Toronto District School Board tweeted Wednesday that Thorncliffe Park Public School will remain closed for the rest of the week so that Toronto Public Health can continue its investigation of COVID-19 cases there. The school is set to reopen on December 14.

  • Spokesperson Stuart Green tweeted Wednesday that the TTC will not be offering free service on New Year’s Eve. “Given current restrictions, partying is not an appropriate thing to encourage,” he wrote. “We hope everyone safely celebrates the end of 2020 by NOT gathering!”

  • The TDSB announced Tuesday that Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute will be closed until December 18 so that TPH can conclude its investigation there and conduct additional testing. At least 10 students have tested positive to date.

  • The CEOs of Mackenzie Health, Markham Stouffville Hospital, and South Lake Regional Health Centre released a joint statement Tuesday in which they state, “We have reached a tipping point in our efforts to manage COVID-19-related volumes at our hospitals” and call on their communities to be “vigilant in following public-health guidance aimed at slowing the spread.”

  • The Hamilton Spectator reports public-health epidemiologist Stephanie Hughes outlined an alarming pandemic statistic on Monday. Hughes told city councillors that from November 1 to December 4, COVID-19 killed 46 people. That is nearly half of the 101 people the virus has killed in Hamilton since the pandemic was declared in March. Hughes says that in early September, the city saw one new COVID-19 case per day on average. As of December 4, that number was 67. CBC Hamilton reports there are 22 ongoing outbreaks in Hamilton, and worryingly high hospital capacity, according to staff and experts.

  • The city is grappling with its largest ever COVID-19 outbreak at the Grace Villa long-term-care home, where 126 people had contracted the virus as of Thursday and 10 had died. CBC Hamilton reports Hamilton Health Sciences staff have been investigating and responding to the outbreak since November 28, following an order from public health officials leery of the home's infection control practices.

  • Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the city will need more staffing and financial help to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. As CBC Hamilton reports, Eisenberger issued a press release stating municipalities face "extensive and expensive" responsibilities" connected to the rollout.

  • Niagara's acting medical officer of health Mustafa Hirji is warning Niagara could be moved into the province's red pandemic control stage by Christmas. He told the St. Catharines Standard the region is around the threshold of that higher stage (currently Niagara falls within the metrics of the less strict orange stage). Hirji says the public-health department and local hospital system are reaching their limits and finding it more time consuming to investigate new cases.

Indigenous

  • As of December 10, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 2,100 active cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across Canada. They are also reporting 49 COVID-19 related deaths in total, across all First Nation reserves in Canada. To date, Ontario First Nation communities have had a total of 200 COVID-19 cases.
chart
(Indigenous Services Canada)


  • The Ontario First Nations Young People's Council and the Chiefs of Ontario will be hosting a two-hour discussion on December 16, 2020, with other First Nations youth and leadership across Ontario, as they share their stories of navigating the pandemic and staying connected
  • Canada will start receiving its first doses of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, sooner than expected, with millions more to follow in early 2021. Trudeau has said isolated Indigenous communities are a “priority population” for the vaccine and would be among those receiving the first inoculations at the start of next year, reports Reuters.
  • Indigenous Services Canada posted a public-health alert to address holiday gatherings in Indigenous communities: “We know from experience in First Nation communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta that gatherings have been a major source of transmission of COVID-19. In order to avoid this risk, we are advising that people not gather in other people’s homes for holiday celebrations,” reads the December 10 statement. ISC is recommending holiday gatherings and celebration only include those living in immediate household and urge community members to avoid all non-essential travel. They are also urging First Nations to encourage members to take care of their mental health during the stress of the holiday season, compounded by COVID-19.
  • On December 8, Deputy Grand Chief Jason Smallboy, of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, provided a COVID-19 update on Wawatay Radio
  • Wasauksing First Nation is hosting a free Christmas radio bingo event on December 16 for members residing in the community.
  • The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians shared their weekly COVID-19 update, on December 10, including a report of the First Nation communities they are aware of that have active COVID-19 cases, which includes: Akwesasne, Deer Lake, Fort William, Attawapiskat, Lac Seul, North Caribou Lake, Cat Lake.

Northern

  • The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is reporting 119 active COVID-19 cases, with two people currently hospitalized.
  • The Northwestern Health Unit is reporting 10 active COVID-19 cases.
  • Four more residents at Southbridge Roseview Manor in Thunder Bay, have died of COVID-19, bringing the total number of residents who’ve died to seven. The long-term-care home is reporting 56 active COVID-19 cases, including 34 residents and 22 staff.
  • Public Health Sudbury and Districts reports 10 new cases, 10 resolved for a total of eight actives cases.
  • Timiskaming Health Unit announced a low-risk exposure warning at Riverside Place in New Liskeard on December 5 between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Anyone who attended at this time has been asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
  • The number of active COVID cases in Attawapiskat is down to three, after two were resolved, according to Weeneebayko Area Health Authority.

Eastern

  • The region of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which includes Cornwall, Hawkesbury, and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, is expected to move into the orange zone, as of Monday, December 14, reports the Review.
  • A COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at Trenton’s Walmart. Individuals who shopped at the centre on November 28 and 29, as well as December 1, 2, or 3 are encouraged to monitor for symptoms, though the risk of transmission is “relatively low,” according to a Hastings Prince Edward Public Health press release on Sunday.
  • As of Monday, 109 residents at a 146-bed long-term care home in Hawkesbury called Prescott and Russell Residence had tested positive for the virus, since an outbreak was declared in October. Fourteen residents died. A county official acknowledged there have been communication issues, as family members of residents complained that they didn't receive updates, the Review reports.
  • On Wednesday, the Kingston area recorded 17 new cases of COVID-19, a single-day record. The region is set to move into the orange zone on Sunday evening, Global News reports. People who attended house parties in the area of Queen’s University on December 4 and 5 are being told to self-isolate, after two people present tested positive, reports CTV News.
  • The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario are set to be administered on Tuesday at the Ottawa Hospital, as well as the University Health Network in Toronto. Health care workers employed in high-risk settings such as long-term-care homes will receive the first shots, the Ottawa Citizen reports.
  • Last week, Symphony Senior Living Orleans posted on Facebook asking for Christmas pen pals for its residents. The retirement home’s post has since been shared nearly 8,000 times. Holiday cards can be sent to 6419 Lumberman Way, Orleans, ON, K1C 6E8.

    Southwestern

    • London now meets most of the criteria to move into Ontario's red zone of control for COVID-19, Middlesex-London's medical officer of health tells the London Free Press. Chris Mackie says the move to the more stringent set of precautions is "more and more likely" on Monday.
    • A COVID-19 outbreak that continues to spread at London Health Sciences Centre's University Hospital is ending clinical research there, the London Free Press reports. Medical students have also been pushed out of their placements. On Thursday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported 52 new cases of the virus, a record breaker for the region.
    • A new report on the demographics of who is getting COVID-19 in London shows a significantly higher rate of visible minorities in those who have come down with the virus than their rate in the city's overall population. A local sociologist tells CBC that the infection rates are similar to what is being found in other cities and that "racial minorities are disproportionately more likely to be infected, in large part because they're much more likely to be socio-economically disadvantaged."
    • As COVID-19 cases rise in Windsor and Essex County schools, the area's medical officer of health has ordered all schools in Windsor and the surrounding area to close and make the transition to online learning, CBC reports.
    • Windsor's Chabad Jewish Centre is offering Hanukkah essentials in a box to help its congregation stay safe from the pandemic while celebrating the holiday, CBC reports. Meanwhile, some churches in Windsor are cancelling Christmas services for the same reason, CBC reports.
    • 21 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 80 workers have been sent home to isolate at the Cargill beef packing plant in Guelph, the CBC reports.
    • The chief medical officer for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph has recommended the region move into the province's red zone of COVID-19 control for the next 28 days because of a significant jump in case numbers, CBC reports.
    • Tecumseh has become the fifth municipality in the Windsor-Essex region to ban walk-ins at its town hall because of the pandemic, Blackburn News reports.
    • Ontario has halted free tests for COVID-19 for those travelling to other international jurisdictions, the Windsor Star reports.
    • Chatham-Kent's sports arenas and other municipal facilities are turning down bookings from people and groups located in the top two COVID-19 control zones, Chatham Daily News reports. The area is currently desginated a yellow-protect zone.

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