Toronto

Ontario reports 821 new cases of COVID-19, 2nd-most since resurgence began in August

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 327 of the additional cases are in Toronto, while 136 are in Peel Region and 79 are in Ottawa.

Just 24,049 tests were processed in the last 24 hours, the fewest since Sept. 9

Ontario reported another 821 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 821 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the second-most on a single day since a resurgence of the illness began in the province in mid-August.

Toronto once again saw the most with 327, while 136 were recorded Peel Region and 79 in Ottawa.

The new case count is the highest number the province has seen in the second wave, since 939 cases were reported on Oct. 9. The seven-day average of new daily cases, which had been slowly dropping over the last several days, ticked back up with today's update and is now about 743. 

Notably, just over 24,000 tests were completed yesterday — the lowest number of tests Ontario has processed on  a single day since Sept. 9. The province previously said it aimed to be processing 50,000 tests per day by mid-October, and as many as 68,000 daily by mid-November. 

The number of confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus in Ontario is 6,237, an all-time high.

Hospitalizations, as well as the number of patients in intensive care and using ventilators, all went up. Hospitalizations rose from 252 yesterday to 274 today, ICU patients went from 69 yesterday to 72 today, and people in the ICU using ventilators went from 40 to 45. 

The province is also reporting three more deaths.

Premier appeals to people with symptoms to get tested

Asked Tuesday about the relatively low levels of testing in the last 24 hours, Premier Doug Ford said the province's labs have now cleared through a backlog of tests that once ballooned to more than 90,000 and that there is capacity for as many as 50,000 daily, but that people can't be forced to be tested.

Ford said the province has set up additional testing units in hotspots, but some people seem to be holding back from getting an assessment.

The province changed its testing guidelines last month, making COVID-19 tests available only to symptomatic people by appointment at its assessment centres.

The change came after the government was heavily criticized for hours-long lineups at walk-in testing centres that assessed people with or without symptoms.

Meanwhile, Ontario is extending most of its emergency orders until Nov. 21 as the province faces a resurgence of COVID-19.

In a news release Tuesday, the provincial government announced the extension will be in place for 30 days with exceptions for orders around pandemic pricing on electricity and electronic access to personal health records.

"With the cold and flu season upon us and the continuing high number of COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the province, it's critical we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Ontarians," said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.  

Masks not required in dance studios, province says

The province has also updated its pandemic rules to allow dance classes to resume in Ontario's four hot spot areas.

Asked Tuesday why small fitness studios aren't allowed to open under the current regulations but dance studios are, Ford drew a distinction between the two saying that unlike fitness studios, dance studios are cohorted.

The province announced this week that dance classes will be allowed to resume in hotspot areas as long as dances are pre-registered and physical distancing is observed.

Masks are not required inside the studios.

Asked why that is, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Tuesday, "It's because of the distance and the separation between the dancers that can be maintained such that the masks aren't necessarily required."

Airborne transmission of COVID-19 however has not been ruled out, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating its guidance this month to say infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. 

NDP bring motion to eliminate for-profit LTCs as some face insurance woes

Also Tuesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would introduce a motion to remove for-profit companies from the long-term care system and replace them with an "all non-profit and public system."

"We need to take action to protect seniors and fix the long-term care system for good, and we have to do it now," Horwath said in a tweet.

A vote on the motion is expected this afternoon. 

Meanwhile, some of Ontario's long-term care homes are having trouble securing liability insurance for COVID-19, a situation that could force some of them to close, says a group representing more than 70 per cent of the province's homes.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association says its homes are being offered new policies without a key provision: coverage for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

The association has now turned to the federal government for help, saying potential claims could place a burden on the homes' finances, and that loans could be denied over the lack of coverage.

Previously, long-term care homes received $5-million to $10-million coverage for damages or claims related to infectious diseases, CEO Donna Duncan said.

Now, insurance companies are including a "contagious disease exclusion endorsement" in policies for the homes, she said.

Her association has pleaded its case to the federal government in a letter sent late last week, asking Ottawa to provide a "backstop" and essentially insure the insurance companies.

Ontario to provide COVID-19 liability protection to some workers, businesses

Also Tuesday, Attorney General Doug Downey introduced a new bill that would provide liability protection to some workers, businesses and non-profits against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits. 

Downey says the bill, if passed, would ensure anyone making an "honest effort" to follow public health guidelines while working or volunteering not be exposed to liability. The bill will not prevent lawsuits against those who willfully, or through "gross negligence", endanger others, he said.

The government says health-care workers and institutions, front-line retail workers, and charities and non-profits would be covered by the bill.

The legislation would also cover coaches, volunteers and minor sports associations.

Outbreak at CAMH worsens   

Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is reporting three more patients have tested positive for COVID-19 on a unit at its Queen Street site.

It follows confirmation Sunday of an outbreak at the unit, when it said two people had COVID-19.

Two other Toronto hospitals also confirmed outbreaks over the weekend. 

The centre says it has implemented standard infection prevention and control procedures for respiratory outbreaks, including closing the unit to admissions and transfers. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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