Ontario logged 848 new cases of COVID-19 over the last two days, the Ministry of Health says, as a group that represents independent businesses called on the province to explain why capacity limits were lifted for major venues while restrictions remain in place for small businesses.
The ministry published two days worth of pandemic data Tuesday because no updated figures were released on Thanksgiving, a statutory holiday.
The seven-day rolling average of daily cases fell to 525, marking 10 straight days of decline.
Two more deaths linked to the illness were also reported over the same 48-hour period, pushing the official toll to 9,792.
Ontario: New daily cases of COVID-19
Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:
Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 149, with 104 needing a ventilator to breathe.
Tests completed in the last 48 hours: 39,065, with an average positivity rate of 1.9 per cent.
Active cases: 4,369, with roughly 28 per cent associated with the public school system.
Vaccinations: A combined 17,725 total doses were administered by public health units on Sunday and Monday. Roughly 82.1 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 years and older have now had two doses of vaccine.
Small business group calls for capacity changes
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) called on the provincial government Tuesday to explain its rationale for expanding capacity limits for some major venues to 100 per cent while continuing to impose restrictions on many small businesses.
"Ontario government and public health officials must come forward and explain in detail why they've once again chosen to provide flexibility to some big businesses while keeping small businesses restricted," the CFIB said in a statement sent to media.
"Small business owners are left wondering how the [Toronto Maple Leafs] and [Ottawa Senators] can seat full capacity while a bowling alley can't open more than half its lanes."
On Friday, the province announced it was lifting capacity limits for select settings, including:
Concert venues, theatres and cinemas.
Spectator areas of facilities for sports and recreational fitness (would not include gyms, personal training).
Meeting and event spaces (indoor meeting and event spaces will still need to limit capacity to the number that can maintain physical distancing).
Horseracing tracks, car racing tracks, and other similar venues.
Commercial film and television productions with studio audiences.
Some outdoor settings with capacity below 20,000.
Proof of vaccination was already required for these settings.
In its statement, the CFIB said that businesses like gyms, yoga and dance studios, swimming and martial arts venues, and bowling alleys continue to see their customer capacity restricted to 50 per cent, a limit that went into effect on July 16 when they were permitted to reopen to patrons.
"CFIB urges the Ontario government to immediately level the playing field and increase small business capacity to 100 per cent," the statement said.
Mayors call for continued funding
Meanwhile, mayors and chairs from the 11 largest municipal governments across the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas issued a news release Tuesday, calling for continued support from both federal and provincial governments heading into 2022.
"As we all look ahead to our 2022 municipal budgets, we are forecasting challenges similar to 2021 caused by the pandemic, including in particular reduced transit ridership," the news release reads.
The group says continued funding is "more crucial than ever" to allow municipalities to continue with measures intended to support people amid the pandemic.
"Every government has worked together throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help residents and businesses through these tough times," the statement reads. "It is our hope that cooperation will continue into 2022 for the good of the entire GTHA and all the residents and businesses who call this region home."
Province announces new long-term care home in Vaughan
Also on Tuesday, Long-term Care Minister Rod Phillips said the province, in partnership with a private equity firm, will build a new facility in Vaughan.
The 256-bed home, which is expected to be ready in 2026, will offer "culturally appropriate services to members of the Italian community," the ministry said in a news release.
The facility will stand on part of a previously unused parcel of provincially-owned land at 7231 Martin Grove Road.
The government has signed a conditional agreement of purchase for the land with Arch Facility Vaughn Inc., a wing of Arch Corporation, which brands itself as a private equity fund that "offers unique real estate investment opportunities for global institutions and high net-worth investors." The deal is expected to close in 2022, the province said.
"This new home is made possible by the province's initiative to sell unused government land on the condition that a portion of the site be used for long-term care. This innovative program is helping build long-term care beds where they are needed most, especially in urban areas where land is scarce and costly," the province said.