Ontario reports 16,713 COVID-19 cases on New Year's Eve as hospitalizations climb

·4 min read
The new numbers come as Ontario announced it is restricting who is eligible for PCR testing and shortening the required self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people infected with COVID-19. Dozens lined up at a rapid test pop-up location in Richmond Hill on Friday. (Chris Mulligan/CBC  - image credit)
The new numbers come as Ontario announced it is restricting who is eligible for PCR testing and shortening the required self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people infected with COVID-19. Dozens lined up at a rapid test pop-up location in Richmond Hill on Friday. (Chris Mulligan/CBC - image credit)

Ontario reported another 16,713 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, New Year's Eve, along with 15 new deaths and over 1,100 people in hospital with the virus.

The new numbers come as Ontario announced it is restricting who is eligible for PCR testing and shortening the required self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people infected with COVID-19.

The changes to testing eligibility means the province will likely have to adjust how it measures new COVID-19 case counts going forward.

You can read more about the province's new testing rules here.

Infectious disease experts have said for several days that the actual number of new cases is likely far higher than those reported each day because many public health units in Ontario have reached their testing capacity.

Limiting tests to only higher-risk individuals means the gap between confirmed and actual cases will now grow even wider.

The province also will stop reporting COVID-19 cases in schools and child care settings, memos from the Ministry of Education say, prompting criticism from the opposition New Democratic Party who called the move "terrifying for parents."

40 LTC homes declare outbreaks in just 1 day

Meanwhile, COVID-19 outbreaks have been declared in 40 long-term care homes across Ontario in the past day as positive cases continue to break daily records.

There are now 98 homes in outbreak across the province, provincial data show. There are no residents with COVID-19 in 38 of those nursing homes.

The province deems it an outbreak if a home has at least one lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 in either a resident or staff.

The data show there are 249 residents with COVID-19, up from 186 the day before, and 520 long-term care staff with the virus, up more than 200 cases from Thursday.

The province announced Thursday it has made fourth doses of an mRNA vaccine available immediately to residents of nursing homes, retirement homes, elder care lodges and other congregate care settings if at least three months, or 84 days, have passed since their third dose.

The government said it is mandating third doses for all staff, students, volunteers, caregivers and support workers by Jan. 28, for those currently eligible for a booster.

Also on Thursday, new rules took effect at long-term care homes in the province, putting a pause on access to nursing homes by general visitors and day absences for all residents for social purposes.

Designated caregivers, however, may continue to enter long-term care homes.

Visitors, when they are allowed back in, will be required to provide proof of a booster dose.

The province said 47 per cent of eligible staff and 86 per cent of eligible residents have received their third dose.

'A lot of mixed messages'

On Friday, thousands lined up to pick up a rapid antigen test at a pop-up site in Richmond Hill.

"I've been a traffic director all day," joked Robert Goddard, first in the line. Goddard said he got in line at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday to make sure he wasn't left without a test.

The Richmond Hill lineup is the second time Benny Spensieri has lined up for a rapid test, and he said he's acutely aware of how lucky that makes him.

"I'm fortunate to be on vacation to do this," he said. "This is not the best way to distribute this, those who can't afford to take time off work are really not going to get anything."

Just before the lineup moved enough for nurse Petre Garnes to pick up her test, she told CBC News that the province's changes to testing eligibility and isolation requirements are "giving a lot of mixed messages."

She worries, in particular, that the rapid tests — which are less accurate than PCR tests — might offer some "false hope."

Garnes said some might see a negative result as a reason to forgo protective measures like handwashing, masking, and social distancing.

WATCH | Don't trust a negative rapid test for New Year's parties, says specialist

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

Tests completed: 75,093.

Provincewide test positivity rate: 29.8 per cent.

Active cases: 98,822.

Patients hospitalized with COVID-related illnesses: 1,144.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 205; 104 needed a ventilator to breathe.

Deaths: 15, pushing the official toll to 10,194.

Vaccinations: 195,809, bringing the total doses administered to date up to 27,208,675. Currently, 90.8 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 or older have received one dose, while 88.1 per cent have received two.

Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19

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