Ontario reports 2,359 new COVID-19 cases, expands workplace inspection blitz to more cities

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Ontario reported 2,359 new cases of COVID-19 and 52 more deaths on Saturday.

Toronto has 708 new cases, Peel Region has 422, York Region has 220, Hamilton has 107 and Ottawa has 101.

A total of 1,501 people are in hospital with COVID-19, 395 in intensive care units and 299 are on ventilators.

Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the province's network of labs completed nearly 63,500 tests in the last 24 hours.

The number of people in hospital has declined by 11, the number of people in ICU has increased by 12, while the number of people on ventilators has increased by eight.

A total of 5,753 people have died in Ontario of COVID-19-related reasons.

Saturday's numbers were down from Friday's figures of 2,662 cases and 87 more deaths.

Ontario's current daily test positivity rate is 4.5 per cent. Test positivity is defined as the number of positive tests divided by the number of total tests on a given day.

There have been a total of 252,585 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario reported to date. Of this number, a total of 222,287 have been marked as resolved.

There are 252 long-term care homes with active outbreaks, an increase of eight from the previous day. Of the 52 new deaths reported on Saturday, 24 are of long-term care home residents.

The province reported that 11,161 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the province's last report.

A total of 276,146 doses have been administered in Ontario so far.

Health unit reports death of teenaged LTC worker

According to the Middlesex-London Health Unit, one of the deaths reported on Saturday is a staff person, a teenaged male, who worked in a long-term care home.

"We are not able to provide any other information including the individual's exact age or the facility where they worked, as this could risk identifying them," Dan Flaherty, spokesperson for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said in an email on Saturday.

"I can also let you know that this person is the youngest with COVID-19 in London and Middlesex County to have died."

The death is one of three posted to its website on Saturday.

Ontario's long term care ministry said in an email to CBC Toronto that it extends its sympathies to the family and friends of the worker.

"Due to sensitivities and requirements for protection of privacy for Ontarians, and for protecting Ontarians' confidential personal and health information, we cannot comment on individual cases," Rob McMahon, spokesperson for the ministry, said in an email.

"We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of all long-term care staff working under challenging conditions to care for our most vulnerable during the pandemic."

More than 300 officers to conduct inspections

The daily case count comes as the Ontario government says it is expanding its blitz of big box store inspections to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham Regions this weekend.

The blitz started in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas last weekend.

The government said it wants to ensure workers and customers at the essential businesses are properly protected from COVID-19 during the provincewide shutdown.

The blitz was developed in consultation with local health units and also includes a variety of other workplaces, including retail establishments and restaurants providing take-out meals.

The province's labour ministry says more than 300 offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, will conduct the inspections.

Corporations can now be fined $1,000, and individuals can be fined $750 or charged for failing to comply with the orders.

Richard Lautens/The Canadian Press
Richard Lautens/The Canadian Press

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the province is confident that the majority of workplaces in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham are following orders.

"However, if we find that businesses are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, our government will not hesitate to take immediate action," McNaughton added in a statement Saturday.

"The only way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and end the provincewide shutdown is for everyone — owners, customers and staff alike — to follow the proper guidelines."

Variant 1st detected in U.K. found in Barrie, Ont. care home

Meanwhile, in Barrie, Ont., the local public health unit has confirmed that a variant first detected in the United Kingdom has been found in a long-term care home in the city north of Toronto.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said genome sequencing on six COVID-19 samples, which were taken from residents and staff at the Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home, has determined that the variant present in the samples is what is known as the B.1.1.7 variant.

Public health officials first declared an outbreak at the home on Jan. 8. A total of 127 residents have tested positive — that's all but two residents at the home. There have been 32 deaths.

This variant is considered "highly contagious and easily transmitted," the public health unit said.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

"The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home has been heartbreaking for all," Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for SMDHU, said in a news release.

"Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread."

On Wednesday, preliminary lab testing of six cases had identified a high likelihood that there was a COVID-19 variant of concern. The second test, a whole genome sequencing test, determined the exact COVID-19 variant, which is the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the U.K.

"This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion," the public health unit said in the release.