Northeastern Ontario health unit won't reopen Friday amid COVID-19 surge

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One northern Ontario health unit won't be moving into the first step of the province's reopening plan this week as it battles an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.

A spokesman for the Porcupine Health Unit confirmed on Tuesday that the region that includes the northeastern city of Timmins, Ont., will not be loosening restrictions on businesses and gatherings this week.

Ontario reported 469 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 40 of those in the Porcupine Health Unit, which serves approximately 84,000 people as of the 2016 census.

The city of Timmins, Fort Albany First Nation and the Town of Moosonee all declared states of emergency in the last month in response to the rise in infections.

Regional COVID-19 data shows the majority of cases are located in Timmins and communities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay regions.

The more infectious Delta variant has been detected in the Porcupine Health Unit, and the region's top doctor said people should assume it is circulating.

Dr. Lianne Catton said vaccinations have protected people but there is still risk of people becoming severely ill.

Overall, Tuesday's case count was the lowest daily infections total for Ontario since Sept. 26, 2020, when the province reported 435 new cases.

Porcupine Health Unit had the third-highest number of new infections.

The data is based on nearly 17,600 completed tests.

The province said 621 people were hospitalized with the virus, including 481 in intensive care and 305 people on ventilators.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press