Ontario logs 1,038 new COVID-19 cases, 44 more deaths linked to illness
Number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals less than half of pandemic high in January
Ontario reported another 1,038 cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 44 more people with the illness on Thursday.
The new cases include 376 in Toronto, 142 in Peel Region and 122 in York Region.
Other public health that saw double-digit increases were:
- Hamilton: 49
- Simcoe-Muskoka: 45
- Waterloo Region: 43
- Windsor-Essex: 41
- Ottawa: 37
- Halton Region: 27
- Northwestern: 25
- Thunder Bay: 21
- MIddlesex-London: 20
- Durham Region: 19
- Lambton: 15
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 10
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)
They come as the province's lab network completed 56,165 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.2 per cent.
Among the new cases were 10 linked to the variant first identified in the United Kingdom and four caused by the variant first found in South Africa. A total of 359 cases in Ontario have now been linked to variants of concern.
Resolved cases continued to outpace new ones, with the number of confirmed, active infections provincewide falling to 10,702, the fewest since Nov. 11, 2020.
According to the Ministry of Health, there were 758 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. That's down from a pandemic high of 1,701 on Jan. 12.
Of those currently in hospital, 277 were being treated in intensive care and 192 required a ventilator to breathe.
The additional deaths reported today pushed Ontario's official toll to 6,773.
At a news conference Thursday, provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the number of deaths the province is seeing is declining, which is encouraging.
"Still, deaths are occurring," he said. "Of course, our condolences go to the family members."
Dr. Dirk Huyer, coordinator of the provincial outbreak response, said the deaths continue to represent the seriousness and sadness associated with the illness.
"We can never forget that," he said.
The province also announced Thursday that orders in place under the Reopening Ontario Act have been extended until March 21. Orders under the act include the province's ability to close businesses and manage outbreaks, as well as implement rules on public gatherings.
The orders were set to expire on Feb. 19.
Meanwhile, the province said it administered 12,383 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday. A total of 501,867 shots have been given out in Ontario thus far, while 205,802 people have been fully immunized with both doses.
Requests to delay opening in Toronto, Peel
Ontario's health minister says the province is carefully considering a request from Toronto and Peel Region to delay loosening restrictions in those communities for two weeks.
Christine Elliott says the province's top doctor will be looking at new pandemic data today that will inform his recommendation on what should be done for the two COVID-19 hot spots.
The medical officers for Toronto and Peel wrote to Ontario's chief medical officer of health recently, saying lifting a stay-at-home order and other restrictions next week as the province has planned would lead to more illness and death.
Dr. Eileen de Villa and Dr. Lawrence Loh asked for those pandemic measures to remain in place until at least March. 9.
They said they were concerned by the threat posed by more contagious variants of the virus and said hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are still too high.
Peel and Toronto are among four remaining Ontario regions that have yet to move from the stay-at-home order back to the province's the colour-coded pandemic restrictions system.
The Progressive Conservative government has defended its decision to proceed with loosening restrictions for most of the province despite warnings it might set off a third wave.
NDP calls for public inquiry
Also Thursday morning, Ontario's Official Opposition tabled a bill that would allow for an independent and public judicial inquiry into the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic
In a statement, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said such an inquiry would ensure the province is "better prepared for the next major health event, and never repeats the same mistakes again."
Horwath said that both Liberal and PC governments failed to act on critical lessons learned during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto, and that Ontarians deserve a "full, independent account" of how the current government responded to the crisis and how it affected families in the province.
She also stressed that an inquiry should only be launched once the province has moved past the immediate dangers posed by the pandemic.
With files from Lucas Powers, Adam Carter and The Canadian Press