COVID-19: The week in review (November 16-20)

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Nov 20, 2020

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This article was last updated at 4:14 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 today's government report, there are 1,418 new cases in Ontario, for a total of
    100,790 since the pandemic began; 518 people are in hospital, 142 of them in intensive care and 92 on ventilators. To date, 3,451 people have died. 
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 102 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 558 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 507 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 2,123 confirmed resident deaths and eight confirmed staff deaths.

  • As of November 20, in publicly funded schools, there are 60 new school-related student cases (for a total of 2,209), 27 new school-related staff cases (for a total of 507), and no new cases in "individuals not identified" (for a total of 1,087); 681 schools have a reported case, and three are currently closed.

  • Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions Friday: on November 23 at 12:01 a.m., Toronto and Peel region will be moving into a stricter set of "lockdown" measures. Read the full government presentation here.

  • At a press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that "we're really at risk of seeing case loads go up and hospitals gets overwhelmed and more loved ones die." He called on Canadians to abide by public-health measures and reduce social contacts. "Doing the things that protect our health are actually the best things to do to protect our economy. Going into lockdown and supporting businesses while we're in that lockdown is a better way of ensuring their success in a few months, in a few years." New national modelling, he said, suggests that the country could see up to 20,000 cases a day before the end of December "if don't limit or restrict our contacts now."

  • Trudeau also made reference to a new rent subsidy for businesses that will go directly to tenants and not through landlords — up to 65 per cent of rent can be covered for small businesses. Those facing a public-health lockdown are eligible for an additional 25 per cent rent subsidy. Businesses will be able to apply starting Monday. The wage subsidy has been extended until June 2021.

  • Trudeau announced today that Canada-U.S. border measures have been extended by another 30 days, until December 21.

  • The province announced yesterday that it is launching a series of education and enforcement campaigns at businesses across the province. According to a press release, three such campaigns have already taken place: "Almost 1,000 workplaces have been visited, and the response from business owners and operators has been overwhelmingly positive. No tickets have been issued and all contraventions were resolved with compliance assistance."

  • The Ontario government announced Thursday that it is investing more than $2.2 million through the Ontario Together Fund "to provide small businesses with free, tailored financial advice and online training to help them make informed financial decisions and navigate the unprecedented economic circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic."

  • Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday that, between January and March, Ontario is in line to receive 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 800,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

  • Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued a statement Wednesday indicating that students' winter holidays will be not extended, City News reports: “We have consulted with the Chief Medical Officer of Health as well as the Public Health Measures Table and have determined that an extended winter holiday is not necessary at this time, given Ontario’s strong safety protocols, low levels of transmission and safety within our schools."

  • The province announced Wednesday that $2.4 million will go toward supporting an additional 13 Ontario Health Teams. "These teams are a new way of delivering care that brings together health care providers and organizations to work as one coordinated team to improve patient outcomes," a press release states. "This new collaborative model is helping the province respond more quickly and effectively to COVID-19 and end hallway health care."

  • As of Tuesday, the province began accepting applications from municipalities for local infrastructure projects to be funded through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream.

  • The Ontario government announced Monday that, in partnership with the agri-food industry, it has developed "a comprehensive strategy to prevent COVID-19 transmission and protect workers and the province's food supply chain ahead of next year's growing season."

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to data as of November 19, there are 420 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 36,821 since the pandemic began; 174 of them are in hospital. In total, 1,515 people have died.
  • A child and youth worker at St. Frances De Sales School has died after contracting COVID-19, CTV News reports. "We’ve recently learned of a tragic death of a staff member of the Toronto Catholic District School Board. This unfortunate news is a huge loss," a board spokesperson said. "Supports are available to the impacted school community. At this time we are focused on supporting staff and students and respecting the privacy of the grieving family and staff member."

  • Aurora mayor Tom Mrakas tweeted yesterday that "on the advice of our Chief Medical Officer (Dr Kurji) Regional Council approved sending a letter to the Premier immediately, asking that York Region NOT be placed in a lockdown zone from the Control-Red Zone at this time."

  • Toronto's Original Santa Claus Parade will take the form of a two-hour television special this year, CP24 reports. Scheduled to air on December 5 at 7 p.m., the event was prerecorded at Canada's Wonderland.

  • According to an internal presentation viewed by the Toronto Star, the Scarborough Health Network currently has 84 patients with COVID-19 — more than any other hospital in the GTA. 

  • Nine confirmed and seven probable cases have been linked to wedding events held in the Township of King on November 6 and November 7, according to York Region Public Health.

  • CP24 reports that Toronto's Fudger House long-term-care facility has seen 112 residents test positive since October 2; 74 have recovered, and nine have died (although it's possible that not all the deaths are directly related to the virus). The others are still considered active.

  • Visitors to Toronto's Distillery Historic District will now be required to wear masks both indoors and outdoors. 

  • Downtown Hamilton is seeing four times as many positive tests (8 per cent) as the rest of the city (2.2 per cent), the Hamilton Spectator reports. The city will hold a media update today following the provincial announcement in which new restrictions are expected for regions with high case counts.

  • Cases continue to rise and deaths continue to occur in Hamilton long-term-care homes. An assistant professor in palliative care at McMaster University told the Spec, “We really have not done anything close to what we should have done to prepare for the second wave.” Hamilton had 23 deaths in 16 days in long-term-care homes between November 2 and 17. CHCH News reports that 14 people have died in Hamilton's Chartwell Willowgrove long-term-care home. The city's public-health department found via inspection that the home was not following the proper protocols to enforce physical distancing or handle personal protective equipment. Chartwell blamed the outbreak on the "nature of the virus," community spread, and the difficulty of managing spread in shared living spaces.

  • The public school board in Hamilton announced this week that it will be cancelling final exams and making it easier to graduate. As CBC Hamilton reports, it plans to do this by halving the 40 community-service hours students must complete, not counting the Grade 9 EQAO test in students' math marks (unless the students and teacher agree to include it), and removing the Grade 10 literacy test as a mandatory requirement this year.

  • McMaster University researchers are studying testing for COVID-19 in saliva, using samples from asymptomatic volunteers.

  • In Niagara, restaurateurs are complaining about new rules put in place by the region's public-health department that say people dining indoors at restaurants must sit only with members of their household. Niagara's acting medical officer of health, Mustafa Hirji, told CHCH News that the closures are evidence-based, given that in the last six weeks, Niagara has traced COVID-19 spread to 15 instances of group dining in which the virus passed between people sitting at the same table.

    In one such gathering, the virus spread to eight local municipalities and caused two outbreaks at LTC homes. Despite the evidence, the St. Catharines Standard reports, Hirji has been inundated with angry phone calls. The cellphone number he uses for on-call emergencies was shared on a Facebook page for people opposing the rules and on another used by anti-maskers. Hirji is standing by his orders following a meeting with Niagara's regional council.

Indigenous

  • As of November 18, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 173 cases on First Nations reserves in Ontario.
  • This week, at a meeting of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee focused on health and business issues, Tabatha Bull from the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business said that, while many Indigenous businesses have pivoted to e-commerce, employees “often have to work in the evenings or work at night to ensure that they get their orders and payments through. It definitely is putting [Indigenous businesses] at a disadvantage, and we encourage the government to do what they can to move the innovation for broadband in rural and remote communities forward.”

  • Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told CTV News that the government intends to rent out all remaining rooms at the Victoria Inn hotel in Thunder Bay for evacuees from Neskantaga First Nation to protect them from COVID-19 exposure in the area. They have been staying for three weeks while a water crisis in their home community is being resolved.

  • Walpole Island is stepping up its precautions against the spread of COVID-19, and  Delaware Nation is considering a 14-day lockdown, Blackburn News reports.

Northern

  • Public Health Sudbury and Districts reported 20 new cases between November 13 and 19; 51 cases resolved over that time. The current active total case count sits at 21. PHSD notes that 70 per cent of these cases were outbreak-related and that 25 per cent came from close contacts of confirmed cases. Of the 20 new cases, PHSD found 266 people who were high-risk close contacts, for an average of 13 close contacts per case. The health unit is reminding the public that PHSD's area is in a yellow-zone and that close contacts should be limited to those in one's immediate household.
  • As of Friday morning, there are 58 active cases in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s catchment area. Fifty of those cases were confirmed this week; 29 have been linked to an outbreak stemming from pickleball players.

  • An outbreak has been declared at the Southbridge Roseview long-term-care home in Thunder Bay after one staff member tested positive. One case has been linked to Lakehead University’s campus and another to Whitefish Valley Public School, though the health unit has confirmed it’s not a student.

  • Algoma Public Health on November 15 reported one new case, which was contracted from a close contact. There are currently three active cases in the district.

  • Stewart Kennedy, head of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre COVID-19 response team, says that the surge of cases in the region has had little impact on hospital operations, reports TBNewswatch. Only one patient is currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

  • A member of Nipissing University tested positive on November 18, according to the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit. There are nine active cases in Nipissing District and one active in the Parry Sound District.

  • As a result of the surge in cases in Thunder Bay, Janet DeMille, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, is asking people to reduce social contacts. Both DeMille and Thunder Bay mayor Bill Mauro support a move from the green zone to the yellow zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.

  • There are 10 active cases in the Northwestern Health Unit’s catchment area, six of which are in the Kenora area. The health unit is asking residents to avoid non-essential travel to Manitoba, which has entered Code Red.

  • A flu clinic hosted by the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit will operate at the North Bay Elks Lodge on November 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Eastern

  • "Many indicators point to a slow decline in transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa," Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, wrote in a statement released Tuesday. "This is directly thanks to the residents of Ottawa. It’s clear we know what we need to do to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community."
  • Ottawa Public Health launched the fourth phase of its COVID-19 engagement survey on Tuesday. Residents are invited to share "the challenges that come with following COVID-19 prevention measures, your plans for safer holiday gatherings and social activities, how you reduce stress while living with COVID-19 and your thoughts on Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 communication strategies."

  • Three transit commissioners voted against OC Transpo’s draft 2021 budget on Wednesday because of its move to increase fares by roughly 2.5 per cent during the pandemic, the Ottawa Citizen reports. Eight other commissioners voted in favour.

  • The fitness centre and gym at Kingston's Artillery Park Aquatic Centre opened for drop-in use on November 17, and the pool will open for drop-in use on November 23.

  • The City of Peterborough has received an AA credit rating from Standard & Poor, in part because of "adequate actions implemented to help offset the revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic."

  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health is recommending that restaurant staff in the region be tested. "Suzette Taggart, a spokesperson for public health, said a memo was sent with the recommendation to restaurant owners Wednesday afternoon," Steph Crosier writes in the Kingston Whig-Standard. "She explained that the recommendation was made because public health seen a number of cases at local eateries over the past week."

  • On November 17, Kingston city council voted in favour of letting downtown businesses use sidewalks as patios over the winter, the Whig-Standard reports.

  • According to the Peterborough Examiner, Peterborough Public Health is reporting a new case at the Fairhaven long-term-care home, bringing the total number of active cases to 18.

Southwestern

  • Western University is dealing with a second outbreak of COVID-19 among students, this time in a residence, the London Free Press reports.

  • A southwestern Ontario credit union is taking an unusual approach to supporting local business during the pandemic. According to the London Free Press, Libro Credit Union is giving its 700 employees $140 each to spend locally, with instructions to promote their purchases to encourage that others will also support local business.

  • Six classes are isolating at a Waterloo Region school after a teacher tested positive for COVID-19, the Record reports.

  • The YMCA of Southwestern Ontario is cutting 110 positions, or about 5 per cent of its working population, across its service locations because of the COVID-19 pandemic precautions, Blackburn News reports. The organization provides services including immigration-settlement supports, child care, and health and fitness.

  • London Health Sciences Centre's CEO is chastising his staff after a spike in COVID-19 infections, Blackburn News reports. As of Monday, 14 employees had tested positive for the virus, and 55 others were awaiting test or investigation results. “This week’s numbers of staff and inpatient cases, coupled with a sharp and alarming increase in community transmission, must serve as our wake-up call," Paul Woods said Monday in an internal staff memo.

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