'Measures of illness are in decline': Toronto reports 353 new cases of COVID-19

·4 min read
Laura Beth Maracle, 40, gets her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech at a clinic for Indigenous people in Toronto on Tuesday. The clinic is a collaboration between Auduzhe Mino Nesewinong and health-care workers from the University Health Network. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Laura Beth Maracle, 40, gets her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech at a clinic for Indigenous people in Toronto on Tuesday. The clinic is a collaboration between Auduzhe Mino Nesewinong and health-care workers from the University Health Network. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Toronto's medical officer of health reported 353 new cases of COVID-19 in the city on Wednesday as the third wave of the pandemic continues to ebb in the city.

Dr. Eileen de Villa said there are 942 people in hospital with the virus, 255 of whom are in intensive care units.

There have been seven more deaths.

"Overall, the measures of illness are in decline. That means our situation is improving," De Villa told reporters at a city hall news briefing.

"Vaccination is vital to sustaining the downtrends in these figures."

De Villa said measures are in place to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are safe for Canadians.

"Every vaccine available to Canadians undergoes careful evaluation and review and is monitored constantly after," she said.

She said Moderna and Pfizer are very similar vaccines and both provide protection against COVID-19.

"If you are offered a Moderna vaccine, you can accept it with confidence. It provides a high level of protection against COVID-19."

De Villa noted there is some hesitancy toward Moderna and other vaccines in Toronto. She said 28 per cent of people aged 80 and older still don't have a first dose, even though that age group is the most vulnerable to COVID-19. She said public health is aware that many older adults prefer to go to their family doctor for care but vaccine access is limited through doctors' offices.

"Please do what you can to encourage and assist the elders in your lives to get a vaccine through the means available now."

But she added that nearly 68 per cent of people aged 20 to 24 and nearly 48 per cent of people aged 16 to 19 have already had a first dose.

Toronto announces VaxTO campaign

Mayor John Tory announced Wednesday a city VaxTO campaign to target communities with lower vaccination rates than the rest of the city.

The city will hold telephone town halls and launch a text service to help convince people to get vaccinated and ensure they get a second dose. It will also employ multilingual social media advertising and robocalls in hot-spot neighbourhoods directing people to book appointments, the mayor said.

The city said it is doing everything it can to encourage residents to get their first and second doses of the vaccine. More than 65 per cent of eligible Toronto residents have received their first dose.

"This campaign — which builds on earlier and ongoing outreach efforts — has been launched proactively to help ensure every resident in Toronto can easily access vaccine information and book an appointment so that the city's tremendous success administering vaccine to residents continues," the city said in a news release on Wednesday.

Starting on Wednesday, Toronto residents can text "VACCINE" to 1-833-750-0888 to be connected with resources including appointment bookings, information on vaccines and upcoming telephone town halls.

The VaxTO campaign will have three phases. Phase 1, now underway, will encourage all residents to book their first dose. Phase 2, beginning in mid-June, will target neighbourhoods and communities with low first dose vaccine rates. Phase 3, beginning in July, will continue to target residets yet to receive a first dose and support the second dose city-wide efforts.

City has administered over 2 million vaccine doses

Toronto has administered 2,010,103 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Wednesday, May 26. The city is working with healthcare partners, pharmacies, and Toronto Public Health to administer all available vaccines. Toronto Public Health is the first local public health unit in the country to reach the two million mark.

Tory urged residents to book their vaccine appointments. He added that the province is committed to ensuring people know where and when to get their second shot.

Those vaccinated at city-run clinics have received a confirmed date for their second shot, yet people vaccinated at other locations — including pop-up clinics — have not received a confirmed second dose appointment.

As Health Canada has approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for youth from 12 to 17, effectively all Ontarians aged 12 and up are eligible to get their first dose.

Community transmission remains the biggest source of COVID-19 spread in Toronto. The city is urging its residents who have not yet received their first dose to book an appointment on the provincial web portal.

As of Tuesday evening, 727,344 people have booked COVID-19 vaccination appointments at city-run clinics.

About 23,137 doses were administered Tuesday. The city is vaccinating residents through a combination of nine city-run clinics, 32 hospital-run clinics, more than 170 participating pharmacies and various pop-up clinics in hot spot neighbourhoods.

Ontario numbers show steady decline

The province reported just 1,095 cases on the same day, continuing a slow and steady decline from the peak of Ontario's third wave. Additionally, there were 23 deaths recorded province-wide.

The province is also reporting a provincewide positivity rate of 5.3 per cent. Overall testing levels have declined in the last few weeks, but so have the average positivity rates.

Across Ontario, there are 1,073 people with COVID-related illnesses being treated in hospitals, 672 of whom are in intensive care. Of the patients in the ICUs, 469 — 70 per cent — require a ventilator.