Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. Ford’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of long-term care and colleges and universities.
You’ll be able to watch it live in this story.
An online portal for booking appointments for COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario is set to launch on March 15, the head of the province’s immunization task force said Wednesday, but it will likely be months longer before many people are able to get a reservation.
The announcement from retired general Rick Hillier comes as members of the general public in both Alberta and Quebec will be able to start booking appointments this week.
Hillier said the delay in launching Ontario’s version is because the focus until that point will be on populations that don’t require an appointment, such as patient-facing health-care workers and essential caregivers for long-term care residents.
“I would have liked to have it earlier, quite frankly,” Hillier told reporters, adding that health authorities are working “furiously” to test the system.
When the online portal, along with a telephone booking system, launch in March, Ontarians aged 80 and over will be the next priority. Hillier cautioned that anyone who is not in that age group, or who is not trying to make a reservation for a person in the 80-plus age group, will not be able to book an appointment in the weeks that follow.
Officials expect to begin vaccinating people 80 years and over by the third week of March.
The proposed schedule in the following weeks, Hillier said, will look something like this as long as supplies of vaccine stay steady:
- April 15: vaccinations begin for people 75 years old and over.
- May 1: vaccinations begin for people 70 years old and over.
- June 1: vaccinations begin for people 65 years and over.
- July 1: vaccinations begin for people 60 years and over.
Essential workers, meanwhile, should begin getting their shots the first week in May, Hillier said, with the final decision about who qualifies in that category still to come from cabinet.
Hillier wouldn’t say when those 60 years old and under who are not essential workers should expect to start getting shots.
“A great question, we don’t need to answer it right now. Early summer is when we might be able to discuss that issue,” Hillier said.
WATCH | Retired general Rick Hillier on Ontario’s vaccine rollout timeline:
He also did not provide even a rough timeline for when people under 60 with underlying medical conditions or those living in higher-risk neighbourhoods might expect to be given a first dose of vaccine.
Hillier did say, however, that where Ontarians can expect to get a shot will be based on their postal code. They will be delivered through a combination of mass vaccination clinics, pharmacies and smaller clinics staffed by primary care provider.
Health officials on the province’s vaccine task force recently said that all of Ontario’s 34 public health units have developed individual plans to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months. The plans were all submitted to the task force for approval.
As of Feb.14, all residents of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes — generally defined as those that provide memory care — who wanted a vaccine had been given their first shot.
So far the province has administered a total of 602,848 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 251,590 people have gotten both doses.
1,054 new cases of COVID-19
The news comes as Ontario reported another 1,054 cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths of people with the illness this morning.
The additional cases include 363 in Toronto, 186 in Peel Region and 94 in York Region.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Simcoe Muskoka: 53
- Windsor-Essex: 50
- Thunder Bay: 45
- Waterloo Region: 44
- Ottawa: 40
- Hamilton: 38
- Durham Region: 35
- Halton Region: 26
- Niagara Region: 13
- Middlesex-London: 10
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’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.)
The Ministry of Education also reported 112 school-related cases: 89 students, 18 staff members and five people who were not identified. As of yesterday, 16 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools were closed due to COVID-19.
Ontario’s lab network completed 54,852 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.4 per cent.
The seven-day average of new daily cases rose to 1,084. A steep drop in the seven-day average that began on Jan. 12 has levelled out.
According to the Ministry of Health, there were 675 people in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 as of yesterday. Of those, 287 were being treated in intensive care and 182 needed a ventilator.
The nine deaths reported today bring Ontario’s official toll to 6,893.
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