Ford asks Ontarians to limit Thanksgiving gatherings as province sees 583 new COVID-19 cases

"We're all going to make sacrifices to stop the spread of COVID-19," Ford says. Ontario reported another 583 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while the number of resolved infections outpaced new daily cases for the first time in months. 

New cases concentrated once again in GTA and Ottawa

Testing at Ontario's 153 COVID-19 assessment centres shifted to an appointment-only model this week. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported another 583 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while the number of resolved infections outpaced new daily cases for the first time in months. 

Some 707 cases were marked resolved in today's update, according to Minister of Health Christine Elliott. The seven-day average of new daily cases, however, remains at more than 600.

The newly confirmed cases were once again mainly concentrated in just four public health units:

  • Toronto: 173
  • Ottawa: 121
  • York Region: 75
  • Peel Region: 70

Other areas with double-digit increases include:

  • Hamilton: 25
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 23
  • Waterloo Region: 17
  • Halton Region: 15
  • Durham Region: 12
  • Middlesex-London: 12

About 60 per cent of new cases are people under 40 years old, Elliott added, including 69 students. Another 15 are school staff.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford told Ontarians that they should only spend the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with people in their own household.

People who live alone may pair up with one other household, Ford said.

"I know it's tough on everyone," he said. "We're all going to make sacrifices to stop the spread of COVID-19."

However, Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said at her own press conference Wednesday that Torontonians should "spend Thanksgiving this year with just the people you live with." People who live alone should connect virtually, she said.

The province's press conference took place at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where Ford announced the province would be spending $176 million to mental health services.

This would go toward fixing the province's "fragmented" mental health system, as well as expand existing programs, Ford said.

The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued its steady rise and now sits at 195, three more than yesterday. Forty-three of those patients are being treated in intensive care, while 28 are on ventilators. Both figures increased by two since the province's last report. 

The number of outbreaks in the province's long-term care homes is also slowly but steadily increasing, with active cases in 53 facilities. Some 154 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in residents yesterday.

Testing backlog still over 55,000

Meanwhile, the province's network of labs processed more than 43,000 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday. Another 55,413 are in the backlog waiting to be completed.

Ontario recently announced it would end testing for asymptomatic people at its 153 COVID-19 assessment centres, instead moving to an appointment-only model for those with symptoms of the disease. The decision was made, in part, to help labs clear the backlog of test samples, which at its highest grew to more than 92,000.

Health experts have cautioned the change could result in artificially deflated new daily case numbers this week

Ontario has now seen a total of 55,945 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 85 per cent are considered resolved.

There are currently 5,344 confirmed, active cases of the illness provincewide, with about 74 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Ford also spoke Wednesday about his assertion that "only a few bad actors" in the restaurant and bar sector are contributing to outbreaks in those industries. The premier was specifically asked if he had seen data to back up that statement.

"Myself, I have not seen it personally. But I will sit down and ask to see it," Ford said.

The premier again said he is reluctant to shut down those industries, even in hotspots like Toronto and Ottawa.

"We can't paint them all with a broad brush, and we can't just shut down people's livelihoods with a broad brush," Ford said.

Province to explore making takeout booze permanent

The provincial government says it wants to explore options to permanently allow licensed restaurants and bars to sell alcohol with orders of takeout and delivery food, which they are currently allowed to do under Ontario's COVID-19 emergency measures. 

The change is set to be included in new legislation that the government says it plans to introduce to help small businesses survive the economic fallout precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The legislation would also allow for 24/7 deliveries to some businesses, such as retailers, restaurants and distribution centres.

The province is also offering small businesses with two to nine employees in the retail, food and accommodations sectors a one-time grant of $1,000 to purchase personal protective equipment.

With files from Lucas Powers and Adam Carter


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