Per today's government report, there are 2,421 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 639,341 since the pandemic began; 328 people are in hospital testing positive for COVID-19, while 165 are in intensive care who either previously tested positive or have currently tested positive, and patients are on ventilators. To date, 10,102 people have died.
According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 11 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 21 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 31 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 137,803 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 24,849,505 since December 2020. 701,928 people have received only one dose, 9,904,068 people have received only two doses, and 1,441,100 people have received three doses. 85.96 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 5 have received their first dose of vaccine, 80.96 per cent have received their second, and 10.29 per cent have received their third.
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As of 2 p.m. yesterday, Ontario's publicly-funded schools were reporting 278 new school-related student cases (for a total of 9,600) 47 new staff cases (for a total of 1,073) and 10 new unspecified cases for a total of 182; 1,167 schools are reporting at least one case and 60 schools have been closed.
- The Ontario government announced yesterday that it is accelerating its booster dose rollout by expanding eligibility to all individuals aged 18 and over, as well as shortening the interval to three months following an individual’s second dose. Starting Monday, December 20, 2021, individuals aged 18 and over will be eligible to schedule their booster dose appointment through Ontario’s booking portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, participating pharmacies and primary care settings.
- The Ontario government also announced that it is launching a holiday testing blitz to offer rapid antigen screening to individuals free of charge at pop-up sites across the province, as well as select LCBO stores across Ontario. Up to two million rapid tests will be provided free of charge at pop-up testing sites in high-traffic settings such as malls, retail settings, holiday markets, public libraries and transit hubs. Pop-up teams will be deployed at nearly 50 locations across the province, including some co-located with GO-VAXX mobile vaccine buses. Most sites will distribute free take-home rapid antigen test kits, subject to supply, and some will offer asymptomatic rapid antigen screening on-site. The government will also make take-home rapid tests available at select LCBO stores, starting with the busiest stores this week and with more stores being added in the coming days.
- Effective December 18, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. the Ontario government intends to introduce a 50 per cent capacity limit to the following indoor areas of venues with a usual capacity of 1,000 or more: facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities; entertainment facilities such as concert venues, theatres and cinemas; racing venues; meeting and event spaces; studio audiences in commercial film and television production; museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions; casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and fair, rural exhibitions, and festivals. According to a news release, this measure is being taken to reduce opportunities for close contact in high-risk indoor settings with large crowds and when face coverings/masks are not always worn.
- Some Ontario universities are delaying the start of in-person classes planned for January amid a rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, reports CP24. “In light of recent guidance issued by the Ontario government, and reduced activity on our campuses due to the completion of classes, York University will be limiting in-person campus attendance to those who are required to help complete the term, effective immediately,” said York University President Rhonda Lento in a letter to students.
Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
- According to December 15 data, Toronto reported 498 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 186,496 since the pandemic began; 22 of them are in hospital (1 new). In total, 3,720 people have died (0 new).
Toronto Public Health has declared COVID-19 outbreaks at three schools after identifying two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases at each site, reports the Toronto Star. In a tweet issued on Thursday morning, TPH said they have identified multiple COVID-19 cases at Winchester Junior and Senior Public School, Cedarbrook Public School and Lord Roberts Junior Public School. All three schools are in the Toronto District School Board.
Shortly after Premier Doug Ford announced that, come Monday, all Ontarians aged 18 and over will be eligible for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Toronto city officials announced they are dramatically expanding clinic operations, reports the Toronto Star. Joe Cressy, Toronto city councillor and chair of the Board of Health said in an interview the city is quickly expanding city clinic capacity by 72 per cent but is also leaning on a huge “Team Toronto” resource that didn’t exist when COVID-19 vaccine first started flowing in the city.
Yesterday, Toronto City Council approved the extension of the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 temporary bylaws, the Mandatory Mask bylaw (541-2020 and 664-2020) and the COVID-19 amendments to Chapter 354, Apartment Buildings until the end of City Council’s April 2022 meeting. "We introduced the mandatory mask bylaw based on the recommendation of Toronto Public Health to help combat COVID-19. Now as we confront the Omicron variant, we know from public health officials that making sure we are wearing our masks when around others indoors is even more important. These bylaws are a temporary and necessary response to the pandemic to help save lives and protect people," said Mayor John Tory in a statement released yesterday.
As of yesterday, Hamilton public health has issued new recommendations for local schools to reduce COVID-19 transmission. As the Hamilton Spectator reports, these include resuming the validation of daily COVID-19 screening, cancelling in-person staff meetings and holiday parties, and keeping students in cohorts at recess.
CBC Hamilton reports McMaster University will hold a week of virtual classes in January due to concerns about COVID-19 transmission. Brock University and Mohawk College say they're discussing it. Mohawk has said learning not required to be in-person will be held virtually in January. And Niagara College has announced that it will also be moving some classes online.
- Hamilton public health says kids 5 to 11 will be able to book vaccines three weeks apart, even though it recommends the eight-week interval suggested by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. CBC Hamilton reports some pharmacies are already giving shots at the shorter interval, noting three weeks was the interval Pfizer used in its research leading to Health Canada approval.
- There were no expansions of COVID vaccine clinics in Hamilton yesterday, despite a call from Premier Doug Ford to expand third dose rollouts, and an announcement on increased eligibility, the Hamilton Spectator reports. The paper also reports what people need to know about booking vaccines and getting rapid tests in Hamilton.
- Overcrowding peaked at Hamilton's Juravinski Hospital, the Spectator writes, and there were 14 times in the last eight days where there were one or no ambulances available to respond to calls. This is happening before an expected surge in COVID-19 patients. TVO.org reported on hospital capacity issues and ambulance offloading delays last month.
- The St. Catharines Standard reports Niagara saw 97 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday — the most in one day since May. There are now 513 active cases in the region, with six patients in intensive care. Public health says a disappointing amount of children (about a third) have received vaccines, and that the hope was for 50 to 60 per cent to be vaccinated before the holidays. Fewer shots booked for kids has meant public health is allowing more appointments for adults.
- The paper also reports that Niagara Health says the hospital system is working to launch a vaccine clinic in the new year, although not a mass clinic like the kind seen earlier this year.
- As of December 14, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 687 communities across Canada with vaccinations underway. 942,383 doses have been administered, of that 390,100 were second doses and 64,673 were third doses, in individuals aged 12+
- As of December 15, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 939 active cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across Canada. It is also reporting 553 COVID-19 related deaths in total, across all First Nation reserves in Canada. To date, Ontario First Nation communities have had a total of 4,154 COVID-19 cases.
- Kingston area is instituting new restrictions as it has one of the highest case rates in the province, CBC Ottawa reports. The region is moving back to the restrictions it had before the province's proof-of-vaccination system was introduced. Most indoor venues will have capacity limits of 50 per cent. The restrictions start Sunday, and there is no firm end date.
- Many holiday performances in Kingston will be cancelled or put online, the Kingston Whig-Standard reports. The Kingston Symphony, and other concert venues, will not be holding in-person performances.
- Ottawa Public Health is preparing to bolster its vaccination network to vaccinate those over 18, the Ottawa Citizen reports. "OPH is in the process of modifying the existing immunization strategy to offer doses to as many people as possible, as soon as possible," says medical officer of health Vera Etches.
- Kingston City Hall and other Kingston city facilities are closed as of Thursday, the Kingston Whig-Standard reports.
- Greater Sudbury recorded its third death this week, bringing the total deaths within Public Health Sudbury and Districts at 46, the Sudbury Star reports. There are 291 active cases in the health unit’s service area, including 173 in Greater Sudbury, 34 in the Sudbury district, and 83 in the Manitoulin District.
- Algoma Public Health is limiting gathering sizes to public events due to the presence of the Omicron variant and continued high case rates in the region. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoors gatherings are limited to 25 people. APH also says it is suspected the Omicron variant is present in the community. Fines of $750 to $5,000 a day could be issued every day for those who do not comply.
One case of COVID-19 has been found at both Gorham & Ware Public School and Kakabeka Falls Public School in the Thunder Bay district, TBNewswatch reports. Students at Thunder Bay schools have begun receiving rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to use at home, according to TBNewswatch.
The Northwestern Health Unit has issued a statement warning residents of increased risk of COVID-19 infection in the region, and in order to slow the spread of the virus, the health unit is urging people to “significantly limit the number of people they choose to gather indoors with.”
- The cluster of COVID-19 cases affecting the homeless population in St. Thomas has grown, the London Free Press reports. The cluster, first reported by the local health unit on Tuesday as including 10 people with confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, now includes up to 15 individuals. Some have been transferred to hospital, while others remain at a former St. Thomas school that is acting as a temporary isolation centre.
- Another southwestern Ontario public-health official is being targeted by protestors over COVID-19 policies. About 50 people — unhappy with mask rules and child vaccination — appeared outside what they said was the home of Sudit Ranade, Sarnia-Lambton’s medical officer of health, earlier this week. “He won’t return our phone calls,” one man, who declined to identify himself, told the Sarnia Observer. Chatham-Kent’s top doctor has been the subject of similar protest this month.
- Southwestern Public Health has confirmed two more deaths related to COVID-19 in the region including Oxford County, Elgin County, and the City of St. Thomas, the Woodstock Sentinel Review reports. Some 26 of the region’s 108 coronavirus-related deaths during the pandemic have occurred since November 1.
- Efforts to increase Windsor’s first-dose vaccination rate are stalling as about 50,000 eligible residents still haven’t received a shot. "We've sort of, I think hit a bit of a cliff or a wall and still having such a large percentage of our population,” Nicole Dupuis, CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, tells CTV News Windsor. “Am I surprised we've not moved it a little more than we have? Yeah, I suppose I would say I am."
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