Ontario reports single-day record of 1,132 new COVID-19 cases as restrictions loosen in York, Ottawa

·6 min read

Ontario reported a new single-day record of 1,132 COVID-19 cases on Saturday — the same day health measures are loosening in multiple COVID-19 hot spots as Ontario's new tiered system takes effect.

Saturday's update surpasses the previous high of 1,050, which was reported on Tuesday.

The colour-coded system — which classifies each public health unit as a red, orange, yellow or green zone based on caseload and transmission levels — came into force at midnight, as previous measures imposed on a handful of hot spots were set to expire.

Only Peel Region, which has seen rising cases in recent weeks, was deemed a red zone, while other hot spots such as York Region and Ottawa were labelled as orange. Toronto is scheduled to join the other regions next week.

Regions in the red category have, among other things, indoor restaurant dining limited to 10 people and gyms limited to 10 people indoors.

The orange level limits bars and restaurants to 50 people indoors, with no more than four seated together.

Health officials in Peel had asked that the region remain under a modified Stage 2 — the restriction classification system previously used by the government — which involves more stringent rules such as a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.

On Saturday, Peel Public Health issued directives to the area that are stricter than those required for red zones.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region's medical officer of health, said: "These directives have been introduced because indicators that track the pandemic in Peel are trending in the wrong direction. Case counts and test positivity rates remain high, public health capacity is stretched thin, and hospitals are at capacity with some procedures cancelled."

The measures take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, unless otherwise noted. They will remain in effect until further notice and will be assessed every 14 days as the pandemic continues.

They include:

  • Social gatherings celebrating holidays and life events in business establishments are not allowed, starting at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 13.

  • Wedding receptions and associated gatherings are not allowed, starting at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 13 until at least Jan. 7, 2021.

  • Religious services, rites or ceremonies should be virtual. When that is not possible, in-person religious events, including weddings and funerals, must reduce indoor capacity to 30 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people per facility, and must seat households together, at least two metres from other groups.

  • Bars, restaurants and other food establishments must restrict seating to people from the same household, or their essential supports. No mixed seating is permitted.

  • Workplaces must prohibit all non-essential visitors and make work-from-home options available, as much as possible.

  • Gyms and fitness centres must make sure all fitness class participants pre-register and provide accurate contact information to help with contact tracing if there is an exposure. No walk-in participation is allowed.

  • Meeting and event spaces, including banquet halls, must close.

  • Peel residents must restrict their contact to members of their household and essential supports only. Those that live alone may join one designated household.

  • Peel residents should not visit any other household or allow visitors to their homes or yards, except for emergency reasons, including medical and repairs, renovations or construction, deliveries and one-on-one tutoring. Proper precautions must always be used in these situations, including mask wearing, distancing, hand hygiene, and isolating if sick.

These measures were issued under Ontario Regulation 263/30, Rules for Areas in Stage 2, sec. 2 (2).

"It is time to shrink our lives to stop COVID-19 from growing completely out of control. These directives are strict, but they are what is needed to keep people in Peel working and learning, and able to access food, medical care and the basics of everyday life," Loh said in a news release on Saturday.

"Together, the actions and sacrifices of Peel residents and businesses will stop the spread of COVID-19, help avoid a lockdown and ultimately save lives. We must take aggressive action now to get the pandemic under control in Peel."

Some public health units moved to yellow zone

Also as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, the following public health unit regions were moved to the yellow zone of the province's pandemic plan:

  • Brant County Health Unit.

  • City of Hamilton Public Health Services.

  • Durham Region Health Department.

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

  • Halton Region Public Health.

  • Niagara Region Public Health.

  • Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services.

You can read more about what each colour-coded zone means here.

100 patients now in intensive care units

Meanwhile, according to documents obtained by CBC News, 100 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units as of Friday night — the highest since June.

There are also 384 COVID-19 patients currently in Ontario hospitals, up four from Friday. Those requiring ventilators also increased by three and now sits at 52.

Toronto saw 336 of the province's new cases on Saturday, followed by 258 in Peel Region, 114 in York Region and 78 in Ottawa.

A handful of other public health units also reported double-digit increases:

  • Halton Region: 64

  • Hamilton: 55

  • Waterloo Region: 36

  • Niagara: 31

  • Durham Region: 30

  • Middlesex-London: 25

  • Simcoe Muskoka: 14

  • Sudbury: 14

  • Brant County: 12

  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 12

  • Windsor: 12

The new cases bring Ontario's official total of cases since the outbreak began in late January to 82,825. Of those, 70,938 are considered resolved. Some 852 cases were marked resolved on Saturday.

Saturday's update has also pushed the seven-day average of new cases — a measure that provides a clearer picture of longer-term trends — past 1,000 for the first time to 1,013.

Ontario is reporting 11 more deaths, with its official death toll standing at 3,220.

The province said it has conducted 39,165 tests since the last daily report, well below capacity. Another 44,572 are in the queue waiting to be completed.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

When asked how Ontario should go about flattening its upward-trending COVID-19 curve, Toronto Dr. Peter Lin said the province should release more details about where people are getting exposed.

"Don't tell us it's just work. We need to know more details — an office setting or assembly line?" he told CBC News on Saturday.

Lin said that information is particularly crucial as temperatures across the province start dropping.

"Because the weather is getting colder, what are the dangerous indoor spaces to be worried about so that we can learn every single day," he said.

"Whereas right now, all we're learning is that there's another 1,000 people with the virus and that doesn't help us protect ourselves in any way."

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ontario health ministry's daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times found in the provincial system.)