Ontario reports 1,670 new COVID-19 cases — fewest since late November
Downward trajectory of 7-day average of new daily cases continued
Ontario reported 1,670 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the fewest on a single day since late November.
They include 450 in Toronto, 342 in Peel Region, 171 in York Region and 128 in Niagara Region.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Hamilton: 84
- Ottawa: 82
- Waterloo Region: 75
- Durham Region: 63
- Halton Region: 48
- Windsor-Essex: 37
- Middlesex-London: 36
- Eastern Ontario: 28
- Simcoe Muskoka: 21
- Brant County: 15
- Chatham-Kent: 15
- Thunder Bay: 14
- Sudbury: 13
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 10
- Porcupine: 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.)
There are a number of potentially encouraging trends emerging in Ontario's COVID-19-related data.
The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 2,205. It has been in steady decline since its peak on Jan. 11, and shows few signs of slowing.
Moreover, the number of confirmed, active cases of the illness also continued its downward trajectory to 21,932, as resolved infections have consistently outpaced new cases in recent weeks.
Just over two weeks ago, there were more than 30,500 active cases provincewide. It is important to note, however, that there are currently still more than four times the number of active cases than at the peak of the first wave in Ontario.
According to the Ministry of Health, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals dropped by 84 to 1,382. Of those, 377 were being treated in intensive care and 291 required a ventilator to breathe — down six and seven, respectively, from the day before.
Ontario's network of labs processed 55,191 test samples for the virus and reported a test positivity rate of four per cent, lower than those typically logged this month.
Public health units also recorded another 49 deaths of people with the illness. Twenty-five of those deaths were residents in long-term care.
There are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 in 238 of the province's 626 long-term care facilities. One of those outbreaks is at Roberta Place in Barrie, where health officials believe 99 people were infected by a variant strain of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom.
Farm inspections ahead of growing season
Meanwhile, Ontario's labour minister said today that the province is ramping up COVID-19 safety inspections on farms ahead of the new growing season.
At a morning news conference, Monte McNaughton said hundreds of inspectors will visit farms to ensure COVID-19 safety measures are being followed to protect temporary foreign workers arriving in the coming weeks.
There were approximately 20,500 temporary foreign workers in Ontario last year and most resided in communal living quarters on farms, according to the province.
McNaughton said inspections of living quarters is the duty of the federal government.
More than 1,780 temporary foreign workers tested positive for COVID-19 in Ontario in 2020 and three died with the illness.
Asked whether migrant workers could be vaccinated while in the province, McNaughton did not directly answer.
"I would urge the federal government to work as hard as possible to ensure that we get enough vaccines for all of the people and all of the workers here in Ontario," he said.
Ontario asks for changes to federal sickness benefit
Before the announcement, McNaughton released a letter he sent to his federal counterpart calling for changes to Ottawa's emergency sick leave program.
Addressed to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, the letter said there are "important issues that need to be solved" in the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. The federal program offers $500 per week for up to two weeks for those who miss work due to illness or mandated self-isolation.
McNaughton said the financial aid needs to be delivered more quickly and asked that the federal government relax the eligibility requirements. He also requested that workers be allowed to apply for the aid multiple times if necessary.
The province has faced repeated calls from public health experts, municipal politicians and labour groups and unions to implement it's own program for permanent paid sick days, which the Progressive Conservative government eliminated in 2018. They've pointed out that the federal aid amounts to less than minimum wage, among other problems with the delivery to workers who need it.
Premier Doug Ford and McNaughton have said the province wants to avoid duplicating the federal program.
With files from Lucas Powers and The Canada Press