COVID-19: The week in review (November 9-13)

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Nov 13, 2020

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This article was last updated at 2:51 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 1,396 new cases in Ontario, for a total of
    91,180 since the pandemic began; 452 people are in hospital, 106 of them in intensive care and 67 on ventilators. To date, 3,312 people have died. 
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 93 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 702 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 478 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 2,060 confirmed resident deaths and eight confirmed staff deaths.

  • As of November 13, in publicly funded schools, there are 56 new school-related student cases (for a total of 1,850), 13 new school-related staff cases (for a total of 410), and 47 new cases in "individuals not identified" (for a total of 1,022); 670 schools have a reported case, and one is currently closed.

  • At a press conference this afternoon, Doug Ford confirmed that the province would be lowering its COVID-19 framework thresholds. Hamilton, Halton, Peel, Toronto, and York will all be moved to Red; Brant County, Durham, Eastern Ontario, Niagara, Ottawa, Waterloo, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will be going Orange. He asked Ontarians to stay home and work from home whenever possible. "We're staring down the barrel of another lockdown," Ford said.

  • Thursday saw grim new modelling projections revealed at Queen’s Park, with Adalsteinn Brown of the University of Toronto warning that, without new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new cases of the disease every day by mid-December. The province is also projected to sail past the lower threshold of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds in even the best-case scenario, despite warnings that having more than 150 ICU cases will negatively affect the ability of hospitals to care for non-COVID patients. The health-care system has not yet worked through the backlog of care that built up during the shutdowns in the spring.

  • According to the modelling provided to the public, Ontario’s fall outbreak is now at a level of intensity similar to that experienced by several European countries when they adopted new lockdown measures. Brown indicated that further public-health measures will be needed to prevent further deaths, saying, “I do not believe that there is a way that the cases will change without action” and “if the goal is to reduce the number of cases and reduce the impact on the health system, than yes” (new restrictions will be needed).

  • The Toronto Star is reporting that "the province rejected advice from its own public health agency when it created its new colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions." Members of expert advisory groups, in interviews with the paper, "described the framework’s controls as insufficient to contain the spread of the virus, putting Ontario’s health-care system and its most vulnerable citizens at risk." Health Minister Christine Elliott told the Globe and Mail that "we’re not considering changing the thresholds in the framework. But we’re monitoring what’s happening in public health regions across the province.”

  • According to a statement from the Ontario Medical Association, "Ontario’s doctors say the new framework for when regions can tighten and loosen pandemic restrictions is insufficient at a time when the province is reporting record numbers of COVID cases and called on Premier Doug Ford to fix it. Doctors working on the front lines of the pandemic support the idea of a framework but say this one is too lax and allows too many businesses to remain open even when many people in their communities have the virus."

  • The province announced Monday that it is looking for "individuals interested in new opportunities — specifically those who are unemployed or have been displaced from the retail and hospitality industries or administrative roles as well as students in education programs" who could "re-enter the workforce and make a difference by helping seniors living in long-term care homes."

  • The Ontario government announced Monday that is expanding testing access and increasing case and contact management and hospital capacity in Peel region.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to data as of November 11, there are 500 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 33,322 since the pandemic began; 164 of them are in hospital. In total, 1,432 people have died.
  • York Region Public Health is reporting that 17 confirmed and possible cases have been linked to two weddings in Vaughan and to related events.

  • “My message today is very blunt and very simple: please stay home," Toronto mayor John Tory said yesterday. "Please don’t socialize with people you don’t live with. Please don’t have people over. Please stay home – except if you have to go to work or school, pick up essentials, or exercise. If you have to go to work or school, please go directly there and back, keep your distance and wear a mask. If you can work or study from home, please do. And please wash your hands, wear a mask and get tested if you have symptoms. I am asking you as Mayor, as directly as I can, stay home as much as possible right now.”

  • New public-health measures will come into effect in Toronto at 12:01 a.m. this Saturday. "The City initially requested one additional week to prepare and monitor COVID-19 trends before being moved to the Orange – Restrict category," a press release states. "After carefully examining the situation, City officials determined Toronto requires strengthened protections and guidance for high-risk sectors and activities."

  • On Monday, Toronto launched a COVID-19 immunization task force. "While it is not yet clear when a safe and effective vaccine will be available, this Task Force will ensure that the City is ready to play its role in helping Torontonians get vaccinated," a press release states. "This Task Force will be led by Chief Matthew Pegg in his role as the City’s COVID-19 Incident Commander and will use the COVID-19 incident management system that the City has developed."

  • The City of Toronto on Monday announced that, through a new partnership model that involves funding from the provincial governments, eight City-initiated COVID-19 research projects are underway at higher-education institutions.

  • Peel Public Health has confirmed an outbreak at the Sikh Heritage Centre in Brampton. Anyone who visited there or attended releated events between October 22 and November 3 is being asked to self-monitor for 14 days.

  • On November 9, Regional Chair Nando Iannicca, Lawrence Loh (Peel medical officer of health), and Naveed Mohammed (of the William Osler Health System) held a press conference to discuss the new restrictions in place in the region. "These directives have been introduced because indicators that track the pandemic in Peel are trending in the wrong direction," a press release states. "Case counts and test positivity rates remain high, public health capacity is stretched thin, and hospitals are at capacity with some procedures cancelled, and patient transfers occurring."

  • COVID-19 case counts in Hamilton continue to increase, as do hospitalizations and deaths. CBC Hamilton reports that eight people living in an Ancaster long-term-care home have died in a COVID-19 outbreak. Fifty-nine staff and residents have been infected. On Thursday, the Hamilton Spectator reported that there were 12 outbreaks in Hamilton long-term care homes and 20 outbreaks total in the city.

  • The Spec also reports Hamilton's public health unit has taken on extra staff, provided by Public Health Ontario, to assist with contact tracing.

  • CBC Hamilton reported Wednesday that, on the direction of city council, Hamilton city staff will work on developing a protocol to release the names of business charged for breaking COVID-19 rules. Once again, Hamilton has faced criticism for not sharing coronavirus-related information about a business with the public. This time, it's a Stoney Creek restaurant that the director of Hamilton’s Emergency Operations Centrehas  condemned for allowing patrons to break masking and distancing rules, and for failing to collect contact information. City officials say they won't share the business' name, despite having charged it $3,000 in fines, noting that it shares business names only if the community needs to be informed of risk. A Stoney Creek resident and an ethicist told the Spec that rule breakers should be named as a deterrent.

  • As CBC Hamilton reports, Hamilton's public-school board is developing a plan in case it needs to switch all students to online learning. Already, 9,000 elementary students are learning remotely and every high school student is doing some remote learning. Part of the prep has involved taking stock of which students and families have adequate technology and access to internet.

  • In Niagara, a Lincoln flower farm is grappling with an outbreak that's driving up the region's case count. As the St. Catharines Standard reports, at least 50 people were infected as of Thursday. The infected are a mix of residents and temporary foreign workers. Niagara's acting medical officer of Health, Mustafa Hirji, told the Standard that the farm is not a front-facing business and therefore has little interaction with the public. So many people got sick that the farm has had to pause operations. This is the second — and largest — outbreak at a Niagara flower farm.

  • Hirji, along with other public-health officials in Niagara, also told the Standard that more needs to be done to penalize people who do not follow social-distancing and masking rules. He said that better enforcement in the short term will help reduce the chance of restrictions in the long term. On Thursday, he released a video asking people to limit socializing to their own household. He pointed out that since the start of October, Niagara has seen 13 new deaths due to the virus.

  • St. Catharines city council agreed this week to use $2.86 million in reserve funds to address revenue shortfalls — caused by pandemic expenses and issues — in next year's budget. As the Standard reports, the 2021 budget should be presented in December. In Port Colborne, council is completing a 2021 budget with an agreed-upon 2.44 per cent increase, meaning about an extra $82 per year in property taxes for residents, the Port Colborne Leader reports.

Indigenous

  • As of November 12, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 168 cases on First Nations reserves in Ontario.
  • More 250 evacuees from Neskantaga First Nation have been displaced for weeks after an oily substance was found in the water reservoir, forcing a plant shut down that left community members without water, reports APTN. A letter from the Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller indicates that they are working to have running water in the community by November 12 and clean running water in the community by December 11. Chief Chris Moonias says that the dates keep changing and that he is not confident they will meet those timelines. “We’re tired and we want to go home. And it’s been it’s been very difficult for my community members,” Moonias said, adding that community members are facing issues with mental health and worries about increasing COVID-19 cases in Thunder Bay.

  • The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has announced that CARES Act funds will be used to offer additional disaster-relief support for tribal households and Akwesasne businesses. The decision to extend the SRMT Household Disaster Relief Program and the SRMT Small Business Disaster Relief Program was made to help individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Following the report of two travel-linked cases in the community, Keewaywin First Nation leadership has announced that it is implementing a "no-flight" lockdown and suspending travel between communities.

  • The state of emergency declared as a part of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek's COVID-19 virus bylaw has been extended until January 31, 2021.

Northern

Eastern

  • According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board says that 1,900 fewer students than anticipated have enrolled this year — and that, as a result, it's looking at roughly $24 million less in revenue from the province. 
  • A guide to Ottawa's "COVID-modified winter aquatics programs" will be available online as of November 16.

  • The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board has temporarily closed Kingston's Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School after it was linked to three cases. "To ensure the health, safety and wellness of our students, ALCDSB has made the decision to temporarily transition Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School to Remote Learning," a statement reads. "Beginning on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 all students ... will participate in Remote Learning until Friday, November 20, 2020. All students will return to school on Monday, November 23, 2020 pending any further direction from KFL&A Public Health." 
  • Ottawa reported 91 new cases Thursday, CBC Ottawa reports.

  • A second resident of the Fairhaven long-term-care home in Peterborough died Wednesday, the Peterborough Examiner reports, and five others have tested positive.

Southwestern

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