Ontario sees 650 new COVID-19 cases as ICU admissions climb again

Ontario reported 650 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the most on a single day since early June, while the number of patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in critical care rose to 135.

Growth in cases has slowed; provincewide test positivity rate a moderate 2.5%

A nurse tends to a patient with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit at North York General Hospital in Toronto last year. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 650 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the most on a single day since early June, while the number of patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in critical care rose to 135.

The overall number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units has increased for six straight days. Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, also noted that the last several days have seen daily new admissions in the double digits.

Moreover, the total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 climbed to 197, the most at any point during Step 3 of the province's reopening plan. 

There are encouraging trends in the recent data, however. According to Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, the doubling-time for daily cases has grown to 17 days, from as few as eight days last week.

The seven-day average of the test positivity rate stands at a moderate 2.5 per cent across the province, while the seven-day average of deaths is about five, far below levels seen in previous waves of the illness in Ontario. 

The cases reported today include 136 in Toronto, 113 in Peel Region, 63 in York Region, 58 in Windsor-Essex, 55 in Hamilton, 39 in Middlesex-London and 25 each in Durham and Waterloo regions. 

Of the 593 additional cases today with a known vaccination status:

  • 426, or 72 per cent, were individuals who had not received a dose.
  • 103, or 17 per cent, were individuals with two doses (considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their second shot).
  • 64, or about 11 per cent, were individuals with a single dose.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

Seven-day rolling average of daily cases: 518, its highest point since June 13.

Tests completed in the last 24 hours: 28,635.

Provincewide test positivity rate: 2.4 per cent.

Active cases: 4,447.

Deaths: Two, pushing the official toll to 9,450.

Vaccinations: 45,748 doses were administered by public health units on Thursday, 16,384 of which were first doses. The last two days have seen more than 16,000 first shots after a considerable slowdown that lasted about three weeks. The uptick is likely linked to the province expanding eligibility for vaccines to youth who are turning 12 this year. About 74.4 per cent of eligible Ontarians, those aged 12 and older, have now had two shots. That works out to roughly 65.8 per cent of Ontario's total population.

Ontario Public Service employees will need COVID shot or regular tests

Ontario Public Service employees will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing for the virus.

Treasury Board President Prabmeet Sarkaria announced the policy on Thursday, noting that details were still being finalized.

He says the policy will involve regular testing for unvaccinated employees, including those who provide proof of a medical reason for not getting the shot.

Other unvaccinated workers will need to take an education course on the benefits of immunization as well as regular testing.

The policy will also apply to staff working in the offices of the premier and other cabinet ministers.

Sarkaria says it will protect the health and safety of the province as the 64,000 people employed by Ontario Public Service live in communities across the province.

The rules mirror provincial policies announced earlier this week applying to workers in several high-risk settings including health and education.

Metrolinx policy likely won't involve rapid testing

Metrolinx, meanwhile, plans to require its staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Ontario transit agency said Friday.

The news follows a slate of announcements over the last week requiring stricter vaccination polices for several sectors in the province, including health, education and public service jobs.

Final details of Metrolinx's policy, including consequences for unvaccinated workers and accommodations for those with medical exemptions, were still in the works at the time of the announcement.

But a spokeswoman for the provincial agency indicated the policy would go further than provincial guidelines outlined this week for workers in hospitals, schools and other high-risk jobs, which will allow workers who don't take the shots to regularly undergo testing as an alternative.

"We don't expect it to include rapid testing," Anne Marie Aikins, head of public relations for the organization, said on Friday. "We're expecting it to be a mandatory vaccination policy."

She said Metrolinx already has rapid testing at some high-risk locations and employees have expressed interest in stronger protective measures.

Time of implementation is also being finalized, but Aikins said Metrolinx hopes to have the policy in effect soon given the risk of the highly contagious delta variant that's become dominant in the province.

The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that other transit and transportation agencies, including the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission and the Owen Sound Transportation Company, have also been directed to develop vaccination policies.

OHL wants proof of vaccination from spectators

The Ontario Hockey League said Friday that it would require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from all eligible people attending league events in the upcoming season, including spectators at games and practices.

Some hospitals subject to the minimum employee vaccination or testing policies unveiled Tuesday had by the end of the week moved forward with stricter immunization rules for staff — an option supported by Ontario's top public health doctor when he announced the changes on Tuesday.

The University Health Network, which already began requiring rapid tests from 900 unvaccinated workers this summer, advised staff on Thursday of plans to move to a full vaccine mandate, with exceptions for those considered medically exempt.

"I don't want to lose any member of this team — but my responsibility is to make UHN as safe as I possibly can for our patients and for you," CEO Kevin Smith said in an notice to all staff at the Toronto hospital network.

The province told The Canadian Press this week that there are two accepted medical exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination under the health worker immunization policy. Those exemptions are an allergy to a component of the vaccine, confirmed by an allergist or immunologist, or if the person developed myocarditis or pericarditis after a first dose of an mRNA vaccine.

Also on Thursday, a group of children's hospitals said they would mandate the shots for staff, volunteers, learners and contractors at their sites, starting Sept. 7. The group noted the risk posed by the Delta variant to young patients who aren't yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and CHEO said in a statement that "all options will be considered to effectively enforce the policy" if people remain unvaccinated after completing a vaccine education course." 

With files from The Canadian Press


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