Ontario reported 486 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, as the portion of eligible people who have received both shots of a vaccine surpassed 75 per cent.
The province also recorded the deaths of 18 more people with the illness — though the health ministry says 16 of those deaths are being counted as part of a "data clean-up," and they actually happened more than two months ago.
Of the 434 cases today with a known vaccination status, 279 were people who haven't had a single shot. Another 41 cases were found in people who have had one vaccine, and a further 114 cases were found in fully vaccinated people.
Notably, the province's data on the vaccination status of cases does not include breakdowns by age, or indicate how long after a first or second shot of COVID-19 vaccine a person contracted the virus, or whether they were symptomatic at the time of testing.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, told reporters Tuesday that unvaccinated people make up a much smaller percentage of people in the province, so some breakthrough infections are possible in the larger vaccinated population.
Moore also said vaccinated people who do end up contracting COVID-19 will generally have less severe symptoms, alongside a significantly lower risk of death or ending up in intensive care.
During an online news conference, Moore also pleaded with younger populations — like parents of young children and people age 18 to 29 — to get vaccinated. He noted that 73.9 per cent of people in the 18-29 age group have received a first dose of a vaccine, but only 62.6 per cent have had two doses.
"We really need to get these rates higher," he said.
"This is not just a disease that impacts the elderly. They are actually the most protected now."
Today's case count is up from the same time last week, when the province logged 348 infections. A further 541 cases were also marked as resolved.
Hospitalizations rose by 91 in today's data, hitting 295 in Ontario. There are 156 patients in ICU, with 85 on a ventilator.
School testing pilot project announced
Vaccinated and asymptomatic students and staff in certain Ontario high schools who are exposed to COVID-19 through an outbreak or cohort will be given an at-home test as part of a pilot project set to begin next month.
A memo from the deputy minister of education sent to directors of education says the pilot is scheduled to run from Sept. 7 to Oct. 29 at targeted schools in 13 public health units across the province.
The document says, however, that participation in the program is voluntary, and students will not be required to disclose their vaccination status in order to receive a testing kit.
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It says completed and packaged test specimens are to be dropped off at the schools, where they will be picked up by a courier.
The memo says high schools were chosen based on the local public health situation, including vaccination rates and recent data on COVID-19 positivity rates.
Among them are schools in the Peel Region, Windsor-Essex, Niagara Region, Eastern Ontario and other health units.
"We are doing everything possible to keep students in class, including offering new testing options that are more convenient and accessible for students and families," Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement.
Province trying to reach vaccine-hesitant people
In a news release issued Tuesday, provincial officials said the government is continuing its "last mile strategy" to reach people who haven't yet gotten their first or second vaccines.
"This is my call to arms," said Moore, in the statement. "It is vital for everyone who can to receive both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. We are implementing many community-based initiatives so everyone can easily receive their vaccine, especially those who live in areas with lower vaccination rates.
"We will continue to monitor data to determine when it is safe to exit the [Roadmap to Reopen] and get life back to normal."
According to the release, the province and public health units are now focusing on smaller, community-based settings for vaccinations, compared to the mass vaccination sites that had been used earlier this year. That means options like mobile clinics and smaller pop-up sites targeting areas with low vaccination rates.
The province also noted that Ontario's GO-VAXX bus clinic, which is taking place in retrofitted buses, has so far administered 1,100 vaccine doses, with 42 per cent of those being first doses.
Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:
Seven-day rolling average of daily cases: 600.
Tests completed in the last 24 hours: 17,369.
Provincewide test positivity rate: Three per cent.
Active cases: 5,053.
Death toll: 9,471.
Vaccinations: The province administered 36,655 doses of COVID-19 vaccines Monday. About 75.1 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now had two shots.
Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19