Ontario reports nearly 100 COVID-19 deaths this week

·4 min read
Dr. Kieran Moore announced Wednesday that people testing positive for COVID-19 no longer have to isolate for five days, but can return to work or school once symptoms improved for at least 24 hours. (Alex Lupul/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Kieran Moore announced Wednesday that people testing positive for COVID-19 no longer have to isolate for five days, but can return to work or school once symptoms improved for at least 24 hours. (Alex Lupul/CBC - image credit)

Ontario is reporting 97 more deaths linked to COVID-19 over the past seven days, up from 89 the week prior.

It's the highest number of deaths recorded in a week since the seventh wave began. Just four weeks ago, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters the latest wave of the virus, driven by the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, had peaked. The province has said the seventh wave officially began June 19.

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Deaths are considered a "lagging indicator," one of a number of severe outcomes that can continue to rise even after a wave peaks.

While deaths have increased, hospitalizations have dropped.

Newly released data from the Ontario Ministry of Health on Thursday shows the number of people in hospital with the virus has also decreased from 1,354 last week to 1,245 as of Thursday.

The number of people in intensive care due to COVID-19 also decreased to 135 from 146 last week. Of those in intensive care, 47 patients are on a ventilator, also a lower number than last week.

COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals and ICUs

Test positivity on Thursday however was 11.3 per cent, similar to last week's reported number of 11 per cent.

Positivity rates are based on the number of people who test for the virus. This past January, the province moved to limit PCR testing to high-risk populations and settings only.

Experts have said reported case counts are a severe underestimate of the actual extent of COVID-19 infections in Ontario.

Omicron-specific vaccine arrives

Meanwhile, Ontario's health minister Sylvia Jones said the province will receive its first delivery of Omicron-targeting vaccines next week.

Health Canada announced Thursday it approved the new vaccine from Moderna, which targets the original strain and the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. Jones said the province is working with public health units to distribute the shots.

Initial shipments will be limited, and reserved for those most vulnerable like long-term care residents and staff. A wider rollout plan, Jones said, will be confirmed once additional doses are en route. Health Canada says there will be enough supply for all Canadians to get a dose this fall and winter.

Isolation rule lifted

Two of Ontario's major teachers' unions say they're concerned about the province's decision to scrap its mandatory isolation period for COVID-19 days before school begins in person.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation say they're worried allowing children and educators to return to the classroom while still potentially contagious could cause the virus to spread faster in schools.

They say that could put people's health at risk, and likely cause further disruptions to learning.

Ontario's top doctor announced Wednesday that people who test positive for COVID-19 no longer have to isolate for five days, but can return to work or school once their fever is gone and their other symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

Moore said people should then wear a mask in all settings for 10 days after the onset of their symptoms, and stay away from high-risk environments such as long-term care during that time.

Schools across the province are reopening next week without COVID-19 restrictions for the first time since the pandemic began.

Boosters for 5 to 11 rollout

Moore also announced Wednesday that the province would start rolling out boosters for kids five to 11 this week, and appointments became available Thursday morning through the province's online vaccine portal.

They can also be booked through local public health units as wells as some pharmacies and health-care providers.

Earlier this month, Health Canada said it had approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster for children in that age group. The agency said the third dose is to be administered at least six months after the second.

In announcing the booster rollout Wednesday, Dr. Kieran Moore said the province had been "working diligently" since Health Canada approved the booster to create guidance and sort out the logistics of distributing doses equitably across the province.

New rules for revamped science table

Ontario's new science advisory table won't have final say on what it can investigate, with topics subject to approval from Public Health Ontario.

In terms of reference issued Thursday for the new group — which will replace the current science table that's provided advice since the pandemic began — Public Health Ontario said a process for topic selection will be developed.