Ontario reports 887 new COVID-19 cases as ICU admissions climb to highest level in 2 months

Ontario reported another 887 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the number of patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in the province's intensive care units crept up to its highest point in more than two months.

168 patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in ICUs, province says

Ontario's minister of health has said that the province expected new COVID-19 cases to rise as the winter months set in, and that the health system is prepared to deal with any related impacts. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported another 887 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the number of patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in the province's intensive care units crept up to its highest point in more than two months.

As of Sunday evening, there were 168 people in critical care due to the illness, according to the Ministry of Health's latest update. That's the most on a given day since Sept. 30, when 171 COVID patients were in ICUs. 

The seven-day average of total COVID-related admissions to intensive care stands at 154, according to Critical Care Services Ontario. Some 44 more adults with the illness have been admitted to intensive care over the last three days.

Today's case count is a nearly 13 per cent jump over the same time last week. The seven-day average of daily cases climbed to 940, about a 20 per cent increase over last Monday.

For reference, the last time the seven-day average of cases was at this level was June 3, on the down slope of the third wave of the pandemic. On that day, there were 546 COVID patients in intensive care.

The Ministry of Health also reported the deaths of three more people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 10,027.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, has unexpectedly scheduled a news conference for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. That is in addition to his weekly briefing on Thursdays. An email from the ministry provided no details about why the extra appearance was scheduled. 

NDP calls for vaccine passports to remain past January

On Monday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province's vaccine passport system — which under the current emergency framework is set to be removed for restaurants, bars and fitness centres on Jan. 17, 2022 — might be re-evaluated considering the emergence of the omicron variant.

"We're planning to start lifting things but if this omicron variant circulates widely and if it's as virulent as it has been in other jurisdictions, we are going to need to take a look at that," Elliott said at Queen's Park.

Elliott's comments came after NDP leader Andrea Horwath called on the province to not prematurely lift the passport system.

"Cases, as we all see, are creeping up a couple of days now. There have been over 1,000 cases a day," Horwath said at Queen's Park. "Who knows what the new variant is going to bring?"

"The vast majority of Ontarians have been doing their part, but they need leadership and public health measures to fight the fourth wave," Horwath said.

Elliott told Horwath that it's "too soon to say," if the province will be shifting its plans.

"Right now, we don't have the pertinent information that we need in order to make a decision," she said.

Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said with the arrival of the omicron variant in Ontario, it's important to continue keeping unvaccinated people out of high-risk settings.

"There's no way we can lift vaccines certificates therefore," he said.

"What will happen is if you admit people who are unvaccinated to a restaurant ... case numbers might explode then and our ICUs could be overwhelmed with unvaccinated people within weeks."

TPH investigating 1st school case of omicron variant

Toronto Public Health (TPH), meanwhile, said on Monday night that it is investigating Toronto's first school case of the omicron variant.

TPH has identified close contacts of the person infected with the variant at Precious Blood Catholic School and has asked them to go into isolation, check for symptoms, get tested and return when the period of isolation ends.

"Given the emergence of this new variant & the ongoing transmission of the Delta variant, it's more important than ever to get vaccination if you haven't already," TPH said in a tweet.

13 total cases of omicron variant confirmed in Ontario

Meanwhile, here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the ministry's daily provincial update:

Total confirmed cases of the omicron variant: 13

Newly reported school-related cases: 178, including 162 students and 16 staff. There are currently 230 active outbreaks of COVID-19 tied to schools in the province, according to Public Health Ontario, with 212 of those in elementary schools. The pandemic high for elementary school-related outbreaks came on April 14, when there were 214.

Tests completed in the previous 24 hours: 25,981, with a 3.5 per cent positivity rate. 

Active cases: 8,439.

Vaccinations: 39,472 doses were administered by public health units on Sunday. About 21 per cent of the 1,078,527 eligible children aged five to 11 in the province have now had a first shot. Nearly 81 per cent of all eligible Ontarians have had two doses.

With files from The Canadian Press