Ontario sees 4,447 new COVID-19 cases as admissions to ICUs top 750

·8 min read
Paramedics transport a patient into the emergency department at Scarborough General Hospital in Toronto earlier this month. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Paramedics transport a patient into the emergency department at Scarborough General Hospital in Toronto earlier this month. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Ontario reported another 4,447 cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths of people with the illness on Monday, while the number of hospitalizations topped 2,200.

It's the sixth straight day of more than 4,000 new infections in the province.

They come as labs completed 42,873 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a positivity rate of 10.5 per cent — the highest recorded since in Ontario since the beginning of the pandemic.

There are 2,202 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those, 755 are being treated for COVID-related critical illnesses in intensive care units. A total of 516 patients require a ventilator to breathe.

All three figures are new pandemic highs for Ontario. Health officials warned last week that admissions to hospitals and ICUs are expected to continue to rise for the next several weeks, as they are lagging indicators to the explosive growth in cases this month.

Meanwhile, up to 60 patients from the Toronto area are expected to be transferred to Windsor this week to help with the crush of patients from the third COVID-19 wave, according to an internal memo from London Middlesex Primary Care. Another 40 are heading to the London area.

WATCH | Ontario doctors prepare to use triage protocol:.

Public health units collectively administered just 66,897 doses of vaccines Sunday, the fewest in two weeks. As of last evening, some 346,005 people in the province had received both doses.

Ontario has given out 3,904,778, or about 80 per cent, of the 4,852,885 total doses of vaccines it has received thus far.

Provincial health officials said early last week that public health units have combined capacity to administer up to 150,000 shots per day. Then during a news conference Friday, Ontario's Chief Medical of Health Dr. David Williams repeatedly said the province could be doing up to 500,000 shots daily, though it is unclear how he arrived at that figure, as no government official had cited it publicly before.

CBC Toronto has reached out to the government for clarification on the discrepancy between the numbers.

Meanwhile, Williams confirmed Monday morning that starting Tuesday, Ontario will begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to adults aged 40 and older. The vaccine had previously been limited to those 55 and up. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec have also said they would lower age requirements for the vaccine.

About 1,400 pharmacies throughout the province are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as some primary care physicians in six public health units.

In some provincially-designated hot spots, those under 40 have been able to get their first doses of vaccine.

York Region announced Monday those 35 and older in five high-priority communities (L4L, L6A, L4K, L4J and L3S postal code areas) are now eligible.

The new cases reported Monday include:

  • 1,229 in Toronto

  • 926 in Peel Region

  • 577 in York Region

  • 233 in Ottawa

  • 227 in Hamilton

  • 205 in Durham Region

  • 203 in Niagara Region

  • 169 in Halton Region

  • 114 in Simcoe Muskoka

The seven-day average of daily cases rose slightly to 4,348 — a 59 per cent increase from two weeks ago, Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Monday.

Seventy-one people have died with the virus since Friday alone.

The 19 additional deaths in today's update pushed the official toll to 7,735. The seven-day average of deaths stands at 24.

New COVID-19 measures face backlash

Students across Ontario returned to the virtual classroom Monday morning as school buildings remain shuttered following the spring break.

The provincial government announced the move to remote learning early last week as it dealt with a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

It also announced a suite of new measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, including limiting interprovincial travel.

Checkpoints are set up at interprovincial border crossings and only those coming into Ontario for work, medical care, transportation of goods and exercising Indigenous treaty rights are allowed through.

The province held firm to that measure over the weekend, despite walking back other public health rules that were announced at the same time Friday.

Premier Doug Ford on Saturday reversed his decision to shutter playgrounds, following a swift backlash from parents and public health experts alike. They said the move was unlikely to curb the spread of COVID-19, as evidence suggests most transmission happens indoors.

WATCH | Director of Ontario's COVID-19 science table disappointed with new measures:

The government did, however, keep in place a number of controversial limitations on outdoor activities. In an interview with CBC News Network today, the director of Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table said the restrictions were the "opposite" of what the group of experts recommended to cabinet.

Dr. Peter Jüni, who is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto, said the new round of measures failed to address the root causes driving the growth in cases in Ontario.

"Right now we have a pandemic that is focused on essential workers and their families," he said. "We need to pay people in an uncomplicated and efficient manner to stay home."

The science table and other health experts have repeatedly called for Ford and his cabinet to institute a provincially-run paid sick leave program. The federal counterpart, the Canadian Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), is "too complicated, not enough and the help comes too late," Jüni said.

Ford government votes against essential workers motion

Ford and Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton have urged Ontarians to rely on the federal program, saying the province wants to avoid duplication. And during question period at the legislature today, House Leader Paul Calandra said the province expects the federal government to improve the CRSB in today's budget, including paid time off for vaccinations.

The Ontario government voted against a series of Opposition motions aimed at supporting essential workers Monday, including one that sought to create a provincial paid sick-leave program.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath presented the motions — which required unanimous consent of the legislature to pass — during a session Monday morning.

A frustrated Jüni said that "political considerations" are behind the government's refusal to take the science table's advice.

"I don't think we can be any clearer: this is not a problem at the sending end, it's a problem at the receiving end. We need to stop having political considerations guide this pandemic [response]," he told host Heather Hiscox.

"This does not work. It hasn't worked in the past, it won't work now. It hasn't worked in other jurisdictions and it wont work in Ontario."

Advisory table 'deeply concerned' about new measures

On Monday, the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics Table issued a statement saying it was "deeply concerned" about the enhanced enforcement measures outlined in the province's stay-at-home order, saying they will "disproportionately harm" racialized and marginalized people.

"The enforcement measures fail to adequately address the root causes of transmission of COVID-19 in Ontario," the statement said. The table said it commends the extension of the stay-at-home order, but urged Ontario to "implement evidence-informed public health measures grounded in public health ethics."

"Provision of provincially mandated paid sick leave is one such measure that is urgently needed," it said.

On Saturday the province also quickly rescinded new powers given to police officers, saying officers will no longer be able to stop any pedestrian or driver during the stay-at-home order to request their home address and their reason for being out of the house.

Instead, police must have "reason to suspect" that a person is out to participate in an organized public event or social gathering before stopping them.

Speaking to reporters today, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that despite the public outcry and condemnation from legal experts that the powers generated, the details were "very clearly laid out."

Jones said the government initially decided to enact the new powers because the science table recommended limiting mobility.

"We've all seen those photographs of people who continue to basically ignore the advice of the science table and the stay-at-home. And the intention was always to ensure those large public gatherings were stopped and didn't continue because it puts everyone else at risk," she said.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Bill Blair, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said the move was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Mr. Speaker, we had just this weekend in Ontario an extraordinary example where the police were offered the authorities to violate the charter," Blair said.

"And unanimously, they stood up to that and said no. And so I want to acknowledge that leadership and assure the member we remain committed to upholding all of the rights and freedoms that are available to all Canadians throughout the country.