COVID-19: What you need to know for December 15

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Dec 15, 2021

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Provincewide

  • Per today's government report, there are 1,808 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 636,920 since the pandemic began; 357 people are in hospital testing positive for COVID-19, while 154 are in intensive care who either previously tested positive or have currently tested positive, and patients are on ventilators. To date, 10,093 people have died. 
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 11 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 18 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 30 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,829 confirmed resident deaths and 13 confirmed staff deaths. 
  • As of 8 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 127,613 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 24,711,702 since December 2020. 693,423 people have received only one dose, 10,018,161 people have received only two doses, and 1,322,001 people have received three doses. 85.87 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 5 have received their first dose of vaccine, 80.92 per cent have received their second, and 9.44 per cent have received their third. 

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  • As of 2 p.m. yesterday, Ontario's publicly-funded schools were reporting 343 new school-related student cases (for a total of 9,295) 34 new staff cases (for a total of 1,017) and 7 new unspecified cases for a total of 174; 1,094 schools are reporting at least one case and 47 schools have been closed.

JMM COVID Graph
Data from the Province of Ontario; visualizations by John Michael McGrath.
JMM COVID Graph
Data from the Province of Ontario; visualizations by John Michael McGrath.
JMM COVID Graph
Data from the Province of Ontario; visualizations by John Michael McGrath.
JMM COVID Graph
Data from the Province of Ontario; visualizations by John Michael McGrath.
  • The Ontario government has announced that effective immediately, all general visitors to a long-term care home will need to be fully vaccinated to enter. In addition, the ministry will be directing all long-term care homes to increase infection prevention and control (IPAC) audits. In a news statement released yesterday, the government announced that new COVID-19 measures will also go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 17, 2021, including the testing of all staff, students, volunteers, and caregivers, regardless of vaccination status, at least twice a week prior to entry into the home as part of enhanced active screening practices; requiring a negative test upon entry to a long-term care home for all visitors and support workers who provide essential services to a resident or to the facility, unless they had a negative test the day before, and limiting indoor visits to a maximum of two people per resident at a time and outdoor visits, where feasible, to a maximum total of four people per resident at a time. 

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to December 14 data, Toronto reported 338 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 186,016 since the pandemic began; 34 of them are in hospital (7 new). In total, 3,720 people have died (0 new). 
  • The TTC is planning to freeze fares again next year but will keep service below normal levels for at least the first part of 2022 as it continues to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, reports the Toronto Star

  • Peel’s top public health official, Lawrence Loh, told reporters on December 14 that the region was working to open up 40,000 additional booster shot appointments after the initial offering was quickly booked, reports the Brampton Guardian

  • Peel Public Health is providing Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon schools with take-home COVID-19 tests for families and staff over the holidays, reports the Brampton Guardian. Two types of self-collected COVID-19 tests will be available at Peel schools to take home starting in the next couple of weeks, the public health unit said in a December 6 letter.

  • Hamilton's medical officer of health, Elizabeth Richardson, warned in a media briefing yesterday that tighter public health measures will likely be announced soon. As CBC Hamilton reports, she is also recommending vulnerable people take precautions such as getting food or medicine delivered, and that families reconsider some holiday plans. Richardson added she worries the surge in cases will overwhelm public health's ability to contact trace. There are 20 active outbreaks with three linked to Omicron. Richardson says public health has some concerns about spread linked to Grey Cup gatherings this past week.

  • McMaster University professor Zain Chagla told TVO.org columnist Matt Gurney why the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is cause for real concern, and why this pandemic should serve as a wake-up call about the vulnerability of our medical system, and society at large. "No one wants to hear this. Everyone is fatigued. But COVID was not the big one. This was practice. And look how we did. We have a lack of global partnerships. We have vaccine inequities. We have testing problems. We have an exhausted society. It is amazing how much damage to our society and to our economy COVID-19 did, and it could be worse next time."

  • As CBC Hamilton reports, students in the public and Catholic school boards will be given rapid tests to take home for the holidays and take when asymptomatic.

  • St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton will fire any staff who do not have two COVID-19 vaccine doses by February 21. CBC Hamilton reports that as of December 6, staff who weren't following testing and education rules were put on unpaid leave. As of yesterday, that included four people. Twenty-six were partially vaccinated, 65 were declining vaccination or not responding to the hospital's request, and fewer than five had medical exemptions.

  • The Hamilton Spectator reports most Hamilton long-term care workers are vaccinated against COVID-19, with all workers in 15 of 25 homes having at least two doses before the end of November according to Ministry of Long-Term Care data. There are two more homes the ministry did not have data for, but the operators told the paper they will achieve 100 per cent vaccination. The 10 homes not already there were all close.

  • Echoing what he told TVO.org last week, Niagara's acting medical officer of health, Mustafa Hirji, told the St. Catharines Standard he's not confident Ontario's public health measures will prevent widespread transmission of Omicron.

  • The Standard also reports Niagara is expanding access to vaccinations for people older than 12. Previously, public health had been saving spots for children, citing limited resources and the need to give unvaccinated kids their first doses. Hirji warns expanding vaccination will divert resources from other areas — possibly contact tracing.

Indigenous

  • As of December 7, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 687 communities across Canada with vaccinations underway. 916,796 doses have been administered, of that 383,602 were second doses in individuals 12 and older.
  • As of December 13, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 871 active cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across Canada. It is also reporting 550 COVID-19 related deaths in total, across all First Nation reserves in Canada. To date, Ontario First Nation communities have had a total of 4,111 COVID-19 cases.

Eastern

  • An outbreak at the Brockville jail has caused it to close, the Ottawa Citizen reports. Inmates at the jail have been moved to Ottawa and Lindsay.
  • Kingston had more than 1,000 active cases for the first time in the pandemic Tuesday, the Kingston Whig-standard reports. As of Tuesday, there were 1,018 active cases and 38acive outbreaks in the region.
  • Ottawa City Hall has paused its return-to-work plan for 3,000 employees, the Ottawa Citizen reports. “The city of Ottawa continues to prioritize the health and safety of all employees and remains engaged with Ottawa Public Health on recommended public health guidelines,” a city official said in a statement.

Northern

  • Public Health Sudbury and Districts is redeploying its remaining staff resources to ramp up vaccine clinic capacity for booster shots amid the spread of Omicron in the province. ". We have not yet detected Omicron but the startling spread elsewhere in Ontario means we have to do all we can to prevent severe disease and protect the health care system capacity. This means getting immunized with a booster dose as soon as possible," says medical officer of health Penny Sutcliffe. A list of people eligible for the booster shots can be found here.
  • Two new COVID deaths were reported in Greater Sudbury, according to the Sudbury Star. They were the 44th and 45th deaths within the health unit since the start of the pandemic. There are 311 active cases in the health unit’s service area, including 173 in Greater Sudbury, 29 in the Sudbury district, and 109 in the Manitoulin District.
  • The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is reporting nine new COVID-19 cases. There are currently 66 active cases in the region, and two people hospitalized with the virus, including one person in the ICU.

  • A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Ecole Elsie MacGill Public School in Thunder Bay, where two people have tested positive for the virus, TBNewswatch reports.

  • In light of the Omicron variant, the Northwestern Health Unit is advising residents not to travel this holiday season, TBNewswatch reports. Kit Young Hoon, the health unit’s medical officer of health, says those who do travel should limit their contacts for 10 days upon their return home.

Southwestern

  • The child-vaccination rate in the London area is soaring amid concerns over the Omicron variant’s spread, the London Free Press reports. Some 34.5 per cent of the region’s children aged five to 11 had received the jab by December 11, up 11 percentage points from the previous week, according to the Middlesex London Health Unit.
  • A former school in St. Thomas has been converted to a temporary isolation centre as a cluster of COVID-19 cases has emerged in the southwestern city’s homeless population, CTV News London reports.
  • The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has confirmed the region’s first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Windsor Star reports. Earlier this week, Shanker Nesathurai, WECHU’s acting medical officer of health, had said it was “just a matter of time” before the variant arrived in Windsor-Essex.


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