Ontario reports 981 new COVID-19 cases and 42 more deaths on Sunday

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Ontario reported 981 new cases of COVID-19 and 42 more deaths on Sunday.
Ontario reported 981 new cases of COVID-19 and 42 more deaths on Sunday.

(Evan Mitsui)

Ontario reported 981 new cases of COVID-19 and 42 more deaths on Sunday.

The new positive cases include 209 in Peel Region, 171 in York Region and 122 in Toronto.

According to Ontario's Health Ministry, the province's network of labs processed more than 48,701 additional tests. Sunday's figures brought the provincial test positivity rate to 2.6 per cent.

There are currently 705 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, of which 292 are in intensive care units. Of those patients, 203 are on ventilators.

The 42 additional deaths reported on Saturday push Ontario's total COVID-related death toll to 6,693.

As of 8 p.m. Saturday, 467,626 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet.

The province says case counts continue to "fluctuate" as Toronto Public Health migrates to its new primary disease reporting system, which is called the Case and Contact Management System, or CCM.

"As part of continued data quality checks and remediation activities following TPH's migration to CCM, case counts may fluctuate," the ministry said in its epidemiological summary on Saturday.

Sunday's figures mark the fewest number of new daily cases since Feb. 11, when the province reported 945 cases. The case count on that day, however, was under-reported due to data issues at TPH.

Earlier this month, the province reported 745 new COVID-19 cases, a number that was also considered under-reported due to TPH data issues.

The last day the province logged fewer than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases without any data issues was Nov. 5. On that day, the province posted 998 new daily cases.

Toronto Public Health moving to new data system

Toronto Public Health said in an email to CBC Toronto on Sunday that it is in the "middle of our transition" to the provincial data system for public health case and contact management.

"This is a big transfer that includes over 80,000 records. Data fluctuation remain possible during the completion of the work," Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health, said in the email.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Durham Region: 35.

  • Halton Region: 35.

  • Waterloo Region: 27.

  • Ottawa: 49.

  • Hamilton: 40.

  • Simcoe Muskoka: 31.

  • Thunder Bay: 35.

  • Windsor-Essex: 46.

  • Niagara Region: 19.

  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 15.

  • Lambton: 14.

  • Northwestern: 41.

  • Middlesex-London: 33.

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the health ministry's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

Niagara's top doctor allegedly threatened over restrictions

Niagara police say they are investigating after Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the region's top doctor, was allegedly threatened over COVID-19 restrictions on social media.

The alleged threats were posted on Facebook on Friday, the same day the Ontario government announced that the stay-at-home order will be lifted in 27 more public health units this coming week, moving the regions back to the colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions.

Several people, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have condemned the alleged threats and voiced their support for the region's acting medical officer of health.

Niagara was the only region to be placed in the grey lockdown category, where retail businesses are allowed to reopen with strict capacity limits, but most other things are required to stay closed.

Variant discovered in North Bay, Ont.

Meanwhile, authorities in northern Ontario say they have confirmed that a coronavirus variant originally discovered in South Africa has surfaced in North Bay, Ont.

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, which is contending with a local outbreak, says it has identified one case of the South Africa-based variant so far, adding the patient is a close contact of an international traveller.

North Bay is currently one of four regions that will remain under a provincial stay-at-home order for the coming week in a bid to lower local COVID-19 case counts. It joins other long-standing hot spots of Toronto, Peel Region and York Region.

The province announced on Friday that stay-at-home measures would lift for 27 other health units on Tuesday, allowing them to move back to Ontario's colour-coded pandemic response framework.

The tiered system sets limits on gathering sizes and include rules for local businesses based on regional case counts and health system capacity.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Province reveals next vaccine priority groups

The Ontario government announced on Sunday that adults aged 80 and over are among the priority groups next in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the first phase of its rollout plan once supply increases.

In a memo dated Sunday to medical officers of health and hospital CEOs, retired Gen. Rick Hillier, chair of the province's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, said the government has drawn up a list of "next priority" groups to provide direction for its vaccination program over the coming weeks.

"Given the expected gradual increase in Ontario's vaccine supply, the next target groups within the Phase One priority populations have been identified for vaccination," Hillier said in the memo.

The groups that were announced on Sunday as being "next priority" are:

  • Adults 80 years of age and older.

  • Staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings for seniors, including assisted living.

  • Health care workers in the high priority level, and in keeping with health ministry guidance.

  • All Indigenous adults.

  • Adult recipients of chronic home care.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist with Toronto General Hospital and a member of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, told CBC News Network on Sunday that the key development is that the program is going to expand.

"The big addition here is really for people who are aged 80 and older who are community dwelling. Obviously, that's a major priority and that's fantastic to see because we know those who are over the age of 80 are certainly at greater risk of having a severe outcome from this infection. I think that's the biggest key addition," Bogoch said.