COVID-19: What you need to know for February 23

The latest coronavirus updates from across the province
By TVO.org staff - Published on Feb 23, 2021

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This article was last updated on Tuesday at 3:52 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 975 new cases in Ontario, for a total of total of 295,119 since the pandemic began; 718 people are in hospital, 283 of them in intensive care, and 186 on ventilators. To date, 6,884 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 127 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 125 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 228 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,736 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
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.
  • As of February 23, in publicly funded schools in Ontario, there are 149 new school-related student cases (for a total of 5,706) 22 new school-related staff cases (for a total of 1,333), and four new cases in an "individual not identified" (for a total of 1,130); 352 schools have a reported case, and 11 school are currently closed.

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  • Per the government's report on Ontario’s vaccination program, 556,533 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario.

  • On Monday, the Ontario government announced $4.1 million to help train 373 new Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and provide them with additional health and safety resources. According to a statement, the government's investment will support a number of PSW training projects in regions hard hit by the pandemic. The funding will also be used to develop educational resources to minimize PSWs' exposure to infections.

  • A survey of principals at 1,173 schools across Ontario by advocacy group People for Education found that 57 per cent of principals surveyed from virtual schools reported their levels of stress were not manageable, and 49 per cent of those from in-person and hybrid schools said the same, reports Global News.

  • Each of Ontario’s 34 local public-health units will be responsible for coming up with and carrying out their own plan to vaccinate residents in their region, reports CP24. The government has said that each local medical officer of health has submitted a plan to the province on how they will administer the vaccine to priority groups in the coming weeks and months.

  • More than 14 per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ontario over the last week have screened positive for a variant of concern, reports CP24.

  • The emergency order, which allowed Ontario residents to enjoy off-peak hydro rates has expired today, reports CTV News. "As stay-at-home orders have been lifted in the majority of health units across the province, we will be moving customers back to the standard tiered and time-of-use rates beginning at 12:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021,” said a government spokesperson to CTV News.

  • In an expansion of the province's testing pilot to test asymptomatic students, the province is calling for larger school boards to test at least five per cent of their elementary and secondary students weekly, with a goal of reaching about two per cent of the student population in the province, reports CBC.  

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

  • According to data as of February 22, there are 373 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 95,640 since the pandemic began; 333 of them are in hospital (7 new). In total, 2,619 people have died (3 new).
  • As of Monday, 29 cases have all screened positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern at the Maxwell Meighen Centre, a shelter funded by the City of Toronto and operated by The Salvation Army. Toronto Public Health declared an outbreak at the shelter on February 3.
  • According to the Toronto Star, many of Ontario’s family doctors say they’re still in the dark about how the vaccine rollout will work. “There are more questions than answers right now,” said Burlington family physician Jennifer Kwan.
  • As Ontario labour inspectors coduct checks on warehouses and distribution centres, the Canada Post facility in Mississauga will not be one of facilities checked by government inspectors, reports CP24. The reason is that Canada Post is a federally regulated Crown corporation, and its inspection falls outside provincial jurisdiction. More than 300 employees at the postal service's Gateway facility in Mississauga have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the year and one employee has died.
  • Yesterday, Hamilton public health restarted the collection of information on social determinants of health in relation to COVID-19, such as race-based data. As the Hamilton Spectator reports, this is after it stopped collecting that information in January, saying the department was overwhelmed by the virus' second surge. Data on the vaccine rollout shows neighbourhoods with the most racialized people are in areas with the highest rates of coronavirus infection.
  • Hamilton men's shelters remain closed to new residents due to COVID-19 spread within them. As the Spectator reports, the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre is the hardest hit, with 26 cases as of a Monday confirmation. A temporary shelter at the old Cathedral Boys’ school on Main Street East reported having some space for newcomers Monday. It's dealing with an outbreak in another part of the building.
  • On Sunday, two inmates at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre were reported to have COVID-19. Now, as CBC Hamilton reports, at least19 have the virus. So do eight staff.
  • In a press briefing Monday, Niagara's acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said there are six suspected cases of COVID-19 variants in Niagara, all linked to the Greater Toronto Area. The St. Catharines Standard reports that Hirji said in some instances, infection was linked to people visiting the GTA then coming back to Niagara and spreading the virus within their close social circles. If confirmed, these will be the first proven examples of COVID-19 variants in Niagara. Hirji is not recommending Niagara move from the grey level to the looser red level of Ontario's pandemic restriction framework, but says he expects the province to move the region next week.
  • Niagara's Catholic school board chair is under investigation by the board for leaving the country during Ontario's last lockdown. While he has not disclosed why, Larry Huibers says the travel was essential, the Niagara Falls Review reports.
  • The St. Catharines Standard reports that, in fact, Huibers travelled to oversee the sale of his boat in the Caribbean, a fact he admitted after the board's communications officer accidentally emailed an apology statement she drafted to the newspaper this past weekend.
  • Another grocery giveaway is coming to Welland this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. The food is being donated by the same anonymous person who has been supplying items across Niagara during the pandemic, Niagara This Week reports.

Indigenous

  • As of February 19, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 1,254 active cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across Canada. They are also reporting 215 COVID-19 related deaths in total, across all First Nation reserves in Canada. To date, Ontario First Nation communities have had a total of 802 COVID-19 cases.

Northern

  • Thunder Bay's medical officer of health Janet DeMille says that the region could return to lockdown as case numbers and hospitalizations surge, reports TBNewswatch. DeMille couldn’t yet confirm whether she'll support a move back to Grey-Lockdown under Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 framework, but said there was growing evidence to support the step. “It really depends even on what happens over the next few days, but the truth is our numbers – the weekly numbers, health care system capacity, public health capacity, all of that – are in an area where we could be looking at going into Grey again,” she said Monday.
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has expanded its COVID-19 Care Unit in anticipation of a continuing surge of COVID-19 patients, reports TBNewswatch.

 Eastern

  • Increasing COVID-19 cases in Ottawa means the city is moving toward Red zone status, the Ottawa Citizen reports. To remain in Orange status, weekly average cases must remain below 40 per 100,000 people. Ottawa recorded 37.3 cases per 100,000 people in the past week.
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is warning of a possible exposure to COVID-19 at Belleville’s east end Shoppers Drug Mart between February 14 and 18, though the risk has been deemed low, the Belleville Intelligencer reports.
  • Algonquin Park will not yet open for overnight camping. The halt on overnight reservations was set to expire Monday, but has since been extended to March 8 due to COVID-19, with those already scheduled set to receive a full refund, My Bancroft Now reports.
  • The acting medical officer of health for Renfrew County is warning against a high number of social contacts – between five and 20 – seen among those who are testing positive for the virus, CBC News reports. “This doesn't make sense,” Robert Cushman said in a YouTube update on Friday. “This does not mean it's party time.”
  • As of Monday, Peterborough was one of a handful of public health units in Ontario that has not yet recorded a COVID-19 case involving a variant of concern, with the region’s top doctor calling on residents to remain vigilant, Global News reports.

Southwestern

  • The City of Windsor and other agencies will open a shelter in the downtown to support homeless residents after another downtown shelter had to close some of its services because of a COVID-19 outbreak that has seen 70 people test positive for the virus since February 11, Blackburn News reports. According to CTV News Windsor, the shelter will be located in Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre and will remain open until the other facilities can reopen.
  • Chatham-Kent is rolling out its mass COVID-19 vaccination strategy this week, and at the top of the list are staff and caregivers for people who live in long-term care and retirement homes, Blackburn News reports. This week, residents in long-term care facilities will also begin receiving their second dose of the vaccine through mobile clinics.
  • Middlesex-London's medical officer of health predicts that the region could move to an orange designation under the provincial COVID-19 control strategy, CTV London reports.
  • COVID-19 screening tests for students in the Waterloo Region will take place outside of school hours, CTV Kitchener reports.
  • 32 cases of a COVID-19 variant have been identified in the Waterloo Region with 29 of those cases linked to an unnamed congregate care facility, the Cambridge Times reports.
  • Wellington North's mayor is advising people in the community who are over 80 years old to sign up for an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it arrives, Blackburn News reports.

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