COVID-19: The week in review (October 19-23)

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Oct 23, 2020

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This article was last updated at 5:23 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 826 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 68,353 since the pandemic began; 276 people are in hospital, 78 of them in intensive care and 47 on ventilators. To date, 3,080 people have died. 
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 77 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 229 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 237 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 1,913 confirmed resident deaths and eight confirmed staff deaths.

  • As of October 23, in publicly funded schools, there are 39 new school-related student cases (for a total of 946), six new school-related staff cases (for a total of 245), and 27 new cases in "individuals not identified" (for a total of 507); 514 schools have a reported case, and five are closed.

  • The Ontario government announced today that it is investing more than $5 million to "help food rescue organizations, First Nation communities and Indigenous organizations purchase refrigerated trucks, freezers, storage space and kitchen equipment so they can safely collect, preserve and distribute unused, high-quality surplus food from places like grocery stores and restaurants to those in need during COVID-19 and beyond, ensuring fresh food does not go to waste."

  • On October 20, the province announced it would be introducing the Supporting Ontario's Recovery Act, 2020. If passed, a press release states, it would "provide liability protection for workers, volunteers and organizations that make an honest effort to follow public health guidelines and laws relating to exposure to COVID-19" and "maintain the right of Ontarians to take legal action against those who willfully, or with gross negligence, endanger others."

  • The Ontario government is extending until November 21 most orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. 

  • On October 19, the provincial government released Ontario Onwards: Ontario's COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government, which includes 30 projects "that will improve the way people and businesses interact with government, saving them both time and money."

  • Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Minister Lisa MacLeod tweeted Monday that "indoor dance classes can resume in modified Stage 2 regions after a decision taken by our government with the advice of the CMOH and the Ministry of Health. All participants must be pre-registered and maintain at least two metres apart."

  • Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced Monday that Canada is extending non-essential travel restrictions with the United States until November 21.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to data as of October 22, there are 317 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 25,913 since the pandemic began; 123 of them are in hospital. In total, 1,346 people have died.
  • The Scarborough Health Network has declared an outbreak at its general hospital, and University Health Network has declared an outbreak at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, CP24 reports. Outbreaks have also been reported at St. Michael's Hospital, St. Joseph's Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, in Toronto, has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 in one of its care units. "The hospital remains open and safe for patients and approved visitors/essential care providers," it tweeted today. "Clinics and procedures will continue as usual."
  • On Wednesday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to grant an injunction "that would have required the City of Toronto to suspend the enforcement of its Parks Bylaw that prohibits camping in City parks during the current pandemic," a City press release states.
  • The Toronto District School Board told secondary-school administrators this week that it will not be possible to further expand its virtual school. "Right now we have about 18,000 secondary students in our TDSB virtual secondary school, and the issue is that if we were going to have, let’s say 1,000 or 2,000 more students added to that, we would have to start pulling teachers out of high schools and if we were to do that all the courses that those teachers taught at brick-and-mortar schools would go with them,” spokesperson Ryan Bird told CP24
  • Toronto Public Health launched an online flu-vaccine booking system on Tuesday: "This year, in response to local COVID-19 circumstances, TPH flu vaccine clinics will only be available through online appointments to ensure that appropriate physical distancing and infection prevention and control measures can be followed to reduce the potential risk of virus spread and keep residents safer."
  • Toronto mayor John Tory announced Tuesday that approximately $1.9 million in additional funding will be distributed to 33 community-based agencies supporting vulnerable populations affected by the pandemic.
  • Hamilton Public Health declared two new outbreaks in the city this week: one at a church and one at a long-term-care facility. There are 81 cases connected to the outbreak at the SpinCo spin studio. In total, the Hamilton Spectator reports, there are 15 active outbreaks in the city. The Spectator also reports that experts say the SpinCo outbreak could have been prevented or lessened if testing and contact tracing had been faster.

  • The first nine months of 2020 saw 20 per cent more freight pass through Hamilton's airport than during the same period last year, the Spectator reports. Cargo and aircraft landings were up 10 per cent. The airport's director of business development and customer experience said the increase is due to a surge in online shopping and a high demand for essential medical supplies. As reported in the St. Catharines Standard, the Port of Hamilton has seen 13 per cent less cargo pass through than in 2019. That is despite a 15 per cent increase in shipments in September 2020 compared to that month last year.

  • In an effort to reduce confusion, Niagara-on-the-Lake council voted to repeal the town's mandatory mask bylaw and follow the provincial rules. The town, region, and province each has its own rule, and there are contradictions as to who is responsible for enforcement (businesses or citizens) and how old children can be before they need to comply, Niagara-on-the-Lake Advance reports.

  • Niagara's acting medical officer of health told the Standard that trick-or-treating in Niagara should be safe this year provided precautions such as wearing face coverings and physical distancing are taken.

  • Hamilton's public school board will reorganize its elementary schools after learning that 1,700 fewer students are enrolled than previously thought, CBC Hamilton reports. About half of those students switched to homeschooling. Meanwhile, the Spectator reports that some Hamilton post-secondary schools have seen their highest first-year enrolment numbers ever.

  • According to Niagara This Week, four schools in Niagara reported new COVID-19 cases this week; CBC Hamilton reported Thursday that eight new cases were connected to Hamilton schools and that two cases were confirmed on Niagara College's Welland campus. 

Indigenous

  • As of October 21, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 322 active cases in First Nations communities across Canada, and 15 COVID-19-related deaths, in total, across all First Nations reserves.
  • Up to 175 evacuees from Nesktantaga First Nation have been evacuated to Thunderbay, the CBC reports. Since Monday, when the water plant was shut down, residents of Neskantaga have not been able to shower or flush the toilet. Many were reluctant to leave the community because of the risk of catching COVID-19 outside the First Nation, Moonias said, but had to due to their health needs and the deteriorating living conditions. "Losing running water to the entire community during COVID-19 is a disaster and can put the lives of residents at risk," Sol Mamakwa said in a statement Tuesday evening. "All services have been shut down due to the public health emergency, including health services and schools.

  • On the advice of the emergency control group, the elected council in Six Nations has passed a motion to increase COVID-19 safety measures. They include keeping federal schools closed to students, making face coverings mandatory in all public places, and reducing gatherings to household members only. It is planning a Halloween drive-thru event for October 30.

Northern

  • Laurentian University will continue remote learning through the winter 2021 semester.
  • Public Health Sudbury and Districts is reporting four new cases in the city of Greater Sudbury and the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts.

  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has announced two cases at Chippewa High School in North Bay. As the cases are not linked, the health unit has not declared an outbreak at the school.

  • Algoma Public Health reported two new cases on October 19 and 22. They are the only active cases in the district as of October 23.

  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's Jackie Park says that the testing backlog in Thunder Bay has now been significantly reduced, TBNewswatch reports.

  • According to the city press release, "the Thunder Bay and District Humane Society has offered to take in stray cats on a temporary basis to allow the City’s Animal Services Centre to focus on providing essential core services during the pandemic."

  • Health Canada says that counterfeit versions of Daily Shield hand sanitizer have been found for sale at a Dollarama store in Thunder Bay.

  • Starting this weekend, Superior North Emergency Medical Services will be hosting a flu-vaccination clinic at its headquarters on Junot Avenue, TBNewswatch reports.

  • Janet DeMille, Thunder Bay District's medical officer of health, says that a modified version of trick-or-treating can go ahead in the region, provided people stick within their households and maintain physical distancing, CBC reports.

  • Both the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and the Northwestern Health Unit are reporting one active case in their respective catchment areas.

Eastern

  • The Ontario government announced today that Canadian Red Cross teams will temporarily provide support to the Prescott and Russell Residence long-term-care home in Hawkesbury "to assist with ongoing efforts to keep residents, staff and caregivers safe."
  • Ottawa Public Health announced Wednesday that it is "actively investigating several situations where transmission of COVID-19 has occurred in relation to organized team sports." In a statement, Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, wrote that "in these instances, transmission and/or exposure occurred before, during and after training. But I also want to stress that COVID-19 doesn’t stay isolated to just players and coaches; we are also seeing transmission occur to family members, friends, classmates and work colleagues – once again showing how easy COVID-19 can spread if the environment allows."
  • Ottawa Public Health's community flu clinics will be up and running as of October 29 by appointment only.
  • Ottawa's transit commission on Wednesday approved the installation of permanent operator barriers on OC Transpo buses. "Pending Council approval of the 2021 Capital Budget, the procurement process would begin in 2021 and barrier installations would start in late 2021," a press release states.

  • Kingston city council on October 20 confirmed which initiatives it will continue to act on to fulfill its strategic goals through 2022. "The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change and City staff and financial capacity was dedicated to continuing essential operations, actions to keep the community safe and responding to emerging community needs," a press release states.
  • At its general committee meeting on October 19, Peterborough city council endorsed temporarily using the community-services building at 210 Wolfe Street as an emergency shelter and isolation site.
  • A McDonald's restaurant and a health-food store in Peterborough closed temporarily after employees tested positive, the Peterborough Examiner reports.

Southwestern

  • Sports groups are objecting to an order from Middlesex-London's medical officer of health that restricts participation in indoor games to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the London Free Press, the health unit will hold a town hall with groups today to see how the new rules can be tweaked.
  • An agency that supports women who have been abused tells the London Free Press it has seen a 28 per cent increase in demand for its services since the COVID-19 pandemic's arrival in the area in March.

  • A Remembrance Day ceremony will take place at the Essex County War Memorial in downtown Windsor, but, according to the Windsor Star, participation will be limited and the public is discouraged from attending. The city plans to live-stream the event on its Facebook page.

  • The Record reports that Black immigrants facing language and cultural barriers in Kitchener-Waterloo have been hit hard by COVID-19, largely because they did not get enough public-health outreach to inform them of risks of the virus and precautions to take.

  • The St. Clair District Catholic School Board is introducing strategies to boost the mental health of students and their families as concerns grow about the impact of the  pandemic, the Sarnia Observer reports.

  • According to the Sarnia Observer, the Sarnia Kinsmen Club will hold a drive-thru Santa Claus parade on December 5; the floats will remain stationary, and families can drive by to view them.

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