Premier Doug Ford was noticeably absent from the province’s daily news conference on Tuesday after his office announced shortly after noon that he had an “unexpected, but non-COVID-related, non-urgent medical appointment that will prevent him from participating.”
The news conference went ahead at pharmaceutical distribution company McKesson’s warehouse with Minister of Health Christine Elliott leading along with retired general Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, and others.
Questions about Ontario’s vaccine rollout were front and centre at Tuesday’s news conference.
Few specifics were on offer, but Elliott did say that vaccines will not be mandatory for healthcare workers. Asked if they would be required to take the vaccine, Elliott replied that the premier has made it clear that he wants vaccinations to be voluntary.
Asked who might be first in line for vaccinations, Elliott said that’s something the province is currently discussing with its taskforce, but that vulnerable populations and frontline workers are among the priorities.
As for who comprises that taskforce, Elliott said it does include a bioethicist, and that the names of the members should be able to be released in a “short while.”
Ontario reported another 1,707 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday as the number of patients with the illness being treated in intensive care units climbed to 193.
The new cases include a record 727 in Toronto — the most ever on a single day for the city — as well as 373 in Peel Region and 169 in York Region.
The new infections push the seven-day average of daily cases to 1,670, also a new record high.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Durham Region: 72
- Waterloo Region: 61
- Hamilton: 58
- Halton Region: 47
- Windsor-Essex: 47
- Simcoe Muskoka: 36
- Ottawa: 34
- Niagara Region: 15
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 13
- Grey Bruce: 12
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario health ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
Also included in today’s new cases are 299 that are school-related: 253 students and 46 staff members. Some 737 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools, or about 15.3 per cent, currently have at least one case of COVID-19, while seven schools are currently closed because of the illness.
There are now 14,524 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, the most at any point since the outbreak began in late January.
The new high comes as Ontario’s network of labs processed 34,640 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. Another 34,000 tests were added to the queue to be completed.
Meanwhile, an internal Critical Care Services Ontario report shared with CBC Toronto shows 26 more people with confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus were moved into intensive care in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 193. Just four days ago, 151 patients were in ICUs. Public health officials have identified 150 as the threshold for when scheduled surgeries and procedures need to be postponed or cancelled.
The province’s report today states that only 185 patients are in intensive care. The discrepancy between the figures is due to the timeframe used in the provincial data, which typically reflects numbers from the previous day. The Critical Care Services Ontario figure for ICU admissions is more current.
Further, a total of 645 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in Ontario hospitals, while 112 are on ventilators.
Seven additional COVID-19-linked deaths were reported today, bringing the official toll to 3,663.
Of those seven people, three were in their 90s, three were in their 80s and one was in their 60s. Six of the deaths are tied to institutional outbreaks, such as long-term care settings.
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