COVID-19: What you need to know for December 17

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Dec 17, 2021

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Provincewide

  • This afternoon, the Ontario government announced that it is introducing lower capacity and gathering limits as of Sunday at 12:01 am. CP24 reports that all indoor settings, except religious facilities, will be limited to 50 per cent capacity and the maximum allowable size of indoor social gatherings will be reduced from 25 to 10. The new public health measures will also require bars and restaurants to close by 11 p.m. each night amid the spread of the Omicron variant. 
  • Per today's government report, there are 3,124 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 642,465 since the pandemic began; 358 people are in hospital testing positive for COVID-19, while 157 are in intensive care who either previously tested positive or have currently tested positive, and patients are on ventilators. To date, 10,107 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 13 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 22 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 24 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,831 confirmed resident deaths and 13 confirmed staff deaths.
  • As of 8 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 156,525 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 25,006,030 since December 2020. 710,302 people have received only one dose, 9,771,714 people have received only two doses, and 1,578,642 people have received three doses. 86.06 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 5 have received their first dose of vaccine, 80.99 per cent have received their second, and 11.27 per cent have received their third.                     
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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.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to December 16 data, Toronto reported 755 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 187,231 since the pandemic began; 14 of them are in hospital (1 new). In total, 3,720 people have died (0 new). 
  • Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed to CP24 Friday morning that 10 members of 51 Division are currently isolating and awaiting PCR test results due to COVID-19 protocols. The potential outbreak comes as the service temporarily closed all buildings to the public as of today in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. TPS says all buildings will remain closed to the public until further notice.

  • Ryerson University has become the latest post-secondary institution to announce a shift to remote learning following the holiday break due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 cases, reports CP24. The school has been gradually returning to in-person learning since November and had planned to offer most classes in-person to start its winter term in January. But in a letter to students and faculty on Thursday, President Mohamed Lachemi said that a decision has now been made to push back that broader return due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant. Lachemi said that classes will now be held virtually until January 30 and “wherever possible” remote work will continue.

  • The City of Toronto’s VaxTO campaign says they have increased its efforts to connect residents over the age of 50 who are currently eligible for third doses with vaccination appointments and information ahead of Monday’s expanded eligibility. Earlier this week, approximately 72,000 text and email messages were sent to encourage eligible residents over 70 years of age to book their third-dose appointment as part of the VaxTO campaign. The campaign is now expanding its text and email outreach to include thousands of eligible 50-plus Torontonians.

  • Today, the City of Toronto announced that it has fully reactivated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to ensure City-wide coordination and support to its divisions, agencies and corporations, as a result of the projected surge in the number of COVID-19 cases related to the Omicron variant of concern announced by the Ontario Science Table. Today’s full reactivation of the EOC requires each City division, agency and corporation to assign representatives to make timely decisions on behalf of their respective operational areas, to ensure critical and essential services continue uninterrupted for residents and businesses. The EOC will continue to convene remotely.

  • The City of Hamilton says it will redeploy workers, cancel programs and close facilities to fight the incoming surge of COVID-19. As CBC Hamilton reports, about 100 staff will be moved to support vaccination programs tomorrow, and until at least January 10. The city is also postponing its plan to bring employees back to physical workplaces.

  • Niagara public health will be redeploying staff, to increase its vaccination efforts. Acting medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji tells the St. Catharines Standard this means taking resources away from contact tracing. He says the province should have prioritized people over 50, who are at higher risk of infection, and that by opening up shots to younger people, the government is making it harder for those with the most need.

  • The paper is also reporting that the region's COVID-19 vaccine task force chair is pushing for more family doctors to start administering doses.

  • Stoney Creek News reports Hamilton's public school board voted this week to approve a staff recommendation to allow unvaccinated staff to work if cleared by three rapid antigen tests per week, rather than be placed on unpaid leave, as had been the plan. This is due to staff shortages. About five per cent of the board's staff (375 people) are unvaccinated and testing regularly for COVID-19.

  • Event organizers tell the Hamilton Spectator they're working to hold upcoming events despite soon-to-be limited capacity. The Niagara IceDogs hockey team tells the Standard new restrictions are devastating for the organization, but says they will do what they need to keep people safe.

  • In a report to Niagara's regional council, Niagara Regional Police say they have issued 189 tickets related to non-compliance with pandemic rules since March 2020, as well as 375 Quarantine Act charges at border crossings. The Standard reports police say issuing fines has been a last resort.

​​​​​​​Indigenous

  • 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.

Eastern

  • The Kingston Area now has not only the highest case rate in Canada, but the highest case rate recorded by any health unit in the country at any point of the pandemic, CBC News reports. As of Dec. 16, its average was 471.4 cases per 100,000 residents.
  • The federal public service has been asked by Health Canada to return to remote work, CBC News reports. In a statement, Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board, says government agencies are being asked to "pause any planned increases to building occupancy, review current occupancy levels and consider increasing remote work."
  • Ottawa's major universities have moved the start of winter term online in response to rising COVID-19 cases, CTV Ottawa reports. Both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa say they will not return to in-person classes before January 31.
  • Hundreds of people lined up at Ottawa LCBOs this morning trying to find rapid tests, but none were available, CTV Ottawa reports. Seven Ottawa locations had been selected to receive free rapid tests, which were supposed to be available today, but they all had to turn people away and didn't know when the tests might arrive at stores.

Northern

  • The Sudbury Star reports a 47th COVID-related death in the region. The death happened in Greater Sudbury, and the Star says there have been COVID deaths every day this week. There are also 14 active COVID outbreaks in the Sudbury district, including six at schools, four at workplaces, two in community settings, one at a daycare, and one in a long-term care facility.
  • The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is reporting a death due to COVID-19. It’s the 69th death attributed to COVID-19 in the region. The health unit is also reporting 10 new COVID-19 cases, for a total of 57 active cases. Two people are currently hospitalized with the virus, including one person in ICU.
  • In light of rising COVID-19 case numbers in the province, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit is asking residents to avoid non-essential travel outside of northwestern Ontario, whether they are vaccinated or not. “Travel is not advisable at this time and should be for urgent or essential reasons only,” says Dr. Janet DeMille, TBDHU’s medical officer of health.
  • New capacity restrictions have led to the suspension of ticket sales for the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, set to begin January 28, TBNewswatch reports. Curling Canada will provide an update for ticket holders in January, and those with questions can email tickets@curling.ca.

Southwestern

  • Fear of the COVID-19 Omicron variant has more St. Thomas residents rolling up their sleeves for a booster shot. "People are concerned. They're confused, they're not sure where they can go or when they can go — so, we're definitely getting an extremely high demand of people trying to get their boosters, especially, I think, before the holidays," Steve Bond, manager of Yurek Pharmacy, tells CBC News. Yurek calls the response “overwhelming” and says his pharmacy administers 60 to 80 shots a day. 
  • The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is rushing to ramp up vaccination efforts ahead of next week when the age of eligibility for booster shots drops from 50 to 18. “Are we ready for it? Maybe not as ready as we have been in the past — but our team is great at pivoting and we have on and on throughout the pandemic,” Nicole Dupuis, CEO of the health unit, tells the Windsor Star. The health unit is trying to set up more vaccination sites. It has also reached out to dentists to see if they — in addition to pharmacies, primary-care provider offices, and community sites — can offer booster shots, too.

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