Province pushing flu shots as Ontario sees most new COVID-19 cases since May 2

Ontario reported an additional 478 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the most the province has seen since May 2. As has been the case in recent weeks, a majority of the new cases were concentrated in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa, with 153, 95 and 90 cases, respectively.

About 68 per cent of newly confirmed cases are in people under 40 years old

COVID-19 testing centres in Toronto have seen long lines in recent weeks. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported an additional 478 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the most on any single day since May 2 — which came shortly after community spread of the novel coronavirus is considered to have peaked in the province.

As has been the case in recent weeks, a majority of the new cases were concentrated in three public health units:

  • Toronto: 153
  • Peel Region: 95
  • Ottawa: 90

Several other areas of southern Ontario also recorded double-digit new daily cases:

  • York Region: 27
  • Waterloo Region: 27
  • Durham Region: 16
  • Hamilton: 12
  • Halton: 12
  • Middlesex-London: 12

Provincial officials were expected to detail Ontario's fall COVID-19 plan Tuesday. Instead, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott said they would be laying it out in stages in the coming days, as "if we lay it all out at once, the message isn't going to get out to people," Ford said at his daily press conference.

The first part of the plan, Ford said, is pushing people to get their flu shots this fall. Officials say it will be the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario's history.

"Please make sure you get yours, it's never been more important," Ford said.

5.1 million vaccines ordered

The province says it is investing almost $70 million to purchase flu vaccines for an expanded campaign this year. Elliott said that last year, 280 people in Ontario died from the flu.

Ontario is ordering 5.1 million flu vaccines this fall, officials say, which is 700,000 more than was used last year. That includes 1.3 million high-dose vaccines for seniors, according to a news release.

High-dose flu vaccines will also be available for seniors to participating pharmacies, Ford said.

Some of the province's doctors were quick to criticize the province's announcement.

"Getting a flu shot is important....but this shouldn't be used as a smokescreen to camouflage the fact that [Ford] has no plan in place to save us from what's coming," tweeted Dr. Michael Warner, a specialist in intensive care and the medical director of the critical care unit at Toronto's Michael Garron Hospital.

"Today Ontario reported 478 cases of COVID-19 — many are imploring the government to take action," echoed Dr. Nathan Stall, who practises geriatric medicine at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

"[Ford's] plan? A massive influenza immunization campaign and keep the rest a secret."

WATCH | Premier Ford talks about the province's flu shot campaign:

Never more important to get a flu shot, Ford says

3 years ago
Duration 1:34
As part of its fall preparedness plan to fight the coronavirus, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is investing $70 million in a flu shot campaign.

As the province appeals to everyone to get flu shots, Ontario pediatricians are warning they won't be able to get all children vaccinated without significant logistical support from the Health Ministry and public health agencies. On Saturday, the pediatrics section of the Ontario Medical Association launched an online petition to express their "urgent concerns regarding an imminent crisis in influenza vaccination." 

The doctors say that COVID-19 safety measures, including physical distancing and rigorous cleaning in between patients, mean they can't vaccinate nearly the same amount of children as they normally do without help to organize large-scale flu shot clinics in large venues or outside. 

Although Ford said that pharmacists will play a large role in administering the flu vaccine, pharmacists in Ontario are not permitted to give it to children under five years of age. 

Premier, health minister 'very concerned' about case surge

Elliott said in a series of tweets that about 68 per cent of the newly confirmed cases in today's report are people under 40. Some 67 per cent of yesterday's 425 cases were also in Ontarians under 40. 

"The premier and I are both very concerned about the rapid increase in numbers," Elliott said, while also adding that the province is prepared for a resurgence of COVID-19. She also pleaded with people to continue to observe public health measures.

Elliott did not offer any information about the possibility of new restrictions being imposed for the province.

"We are looking very carefully at several different scenarios … we will take whatever steps need to be taken," she said.

The additional infections of the novel coronavirus come as Ontario's network of labs processed 34,201 tests yesterday. Another 39,788 are in the queue waiting to be completed. The positivity rate of tests has been slowly but steadily increasing since mid-August, when it was about 0.31 per cent. It is currently about 1.5 per cent.

Elliott said Monday that the province intends to increase testing capacity to up to 50,000 daily as part of its fall COVID-19 plan.

Both she and Ford said Tuesday that the province is asking Health Canada to allow saliva tests in an effort to lessen lineups at testing centres.

"Health Canada, we have to get this moving forward," Ford said.

3,578 active cases in Ontario

Ontario has now seen a total of 47,752 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 86.6 per cent are considered resolved. Another 196 were marked resolved in today's update. 

There are currently about 3,578 confirmed, active infections provincewide, the most since June 9.

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases, a measure that smooths peaks and valleys in the data, has been consistently trending upward since mid-August, with growth rates increasing considerably in the last 10 or so days.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said 51 of the new cases in today's update are school related: 26 students, seven staff and 18 "individuals not identified."

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 sits at 82. Of those, 24 are being treated in intensive care and 11 are on ventilators. 

The province's official COVID-19 death toll grew by three, up to 2,832. A CBC News count based on information provided directly from public health units puts the real toll at 2,869.

All of the figures in this story can be found in the provincial Ministry of Health's daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit.

With files from Lucas Powers, Adam Carter and Nicole Ireland


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