Toronto reports 1,035 COVID-19 hospitalizations in another record-setting day

·3 min read
Health-care workers administer the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to hot-spot residents aged 18 and up at the Downsview Arena, in northeast Toronto, on Apr. 21, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News - image credit)
Health-care workers administer the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to hot-spot residents aged 18 and up at the Downsview Arena, in northeast Toronto, on Apr. 21, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News - image credit)

Toronto reported 1,035 COVID-19 patients in hospital and 203 in intensive care units Thursday, topping records set only the day before.

The city also saw 1,243 new cases and six more deaths, bringing the total death toll to 2,976, according to public health data.

"The amount of deaths we could possibly see … if we have hundreds of patients. I don't know. It honestly keeps me awake at night," ICU nurse Nikki Skillen told White Coat Black Art's Dr. Brian Goldman. "This is very, very scary and we've got to get a handle on it."

The city has now administered close to 977,900 vaccine doses and plans to inoculate a further 8,000 residents at its clinics. Mobile and pop-up clinics across Toronto will also be vaccinating people.

Toronto pharmacist Kyro Maseh told CBC News that demand is "through the roof" for the AstraZeneca vaccine since the province lowered the minimum age limit to 40 from 55.

Experts have warned vaccinations alone won't get the city out of the third wave of the pandemic.

On Thursday, the province reported more than 800 patients are now getting ICU care. A growing number of people who get seriously sick in the city are also being transported to hospitals in less hard-hit areas.

800 TTC employees have tested positive for COVID-19

TTC Wheel-Trans driver John Nikas, 50, drives residents with disabilities to COVID-19 testing sites and vaccination appointments, but he himself hasn't secured his first dose.

As a transit operator, he's deemed an essential worker, but won't be prioritized for vaccination until Phase 2, sometime between May and July.

"We are the ones that go into these hotspots all the time," Nikas said. "We are not being prioritized at all."

The 54 Lawrence East bus, pictured on Sept. 15, 2020, runs through Scarborough.
The 54 Lawrence East bus, pictured on Sept. 15, 2020, runs through Scarborough. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Nikas said he's attempted to book an appointment at multiple pharmacies and finally got one earlier this week near his Scarborough home, but it was cancelled when they ran out. He managed, with the help of his niece, to find another appointment for tomorrow morning, but it's 45 minutes away in Vaughan.

He said he's crossing his fingers he will make it back in time to start his shift with the TTC with an "extra layer of protection" against COVID-19.

More than 800 TTC employees, both management and union members, have tested positive for COVID-19, said Carlos Santos, president of ATU Local 113 that represents public transit workers. He's urging that they're prioritized for vaccination like school bus drivers currently are.

"It is really unfortunate because our members have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic," Santos said.

The TTC recently sent staff an email encouraging them to get the AstraZeneca vaccine at Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies, some of which are offering it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This applies only to those 40 years or older who manage to get an appointment.

Santos said he's asking the TTC to allow employees time to go to vaccine appointments if it overlaps with work hours.

"I wouldn't want any of our members refusing appointments because they have to work," Santos said.

The TTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Police stepping up enforcement for gatherings

Toronto police is now dedicating teams to all 16 divisions to respond to large indoor and outdoor gatherings, it said in a statement. Officers will fan out across the city starting Thursday at 5 p.m. to enforce the province's stay-at-home order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

This does not mean there's a change to police powers and officers will not be doing random checks or stops of people or cars, the service said. People aren't required to explain why they're outside.

However, police will issue tickets to people and business that appear to be breaking the rules.