Ontario reports record-high 3,519 new COVID-19 cases on deadliest day of pandemic so far

Ontario reported a single-day record of 3,519 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 89 more deaths of people with the illness — the deadliest day of the entire pandemic for the province.

Province has now received 143,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, administered 72,631 doses by last night

A woman is transported to an ambulance outside St. George Care Community long-term care home in Toronto. Staff at the home staged a union-organized rally there on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported a single-day record of 3,519 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 89 more deaths of people with the illness — the deadliest day so far of the entire pandemic for the province.

"This has been a significant week for us," said Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, noting today marked the highest number of cases the province has seen since the start of the pandemic, as well as deaths.

The hope is from here the numbers might start coming down, Williams said, although he expressed concerns that community transmission is at its worst point and that numbers could swell to 4,000 cases per day. 

On top of that, Williams said hospitals are seeing record numbers of patients with ICU admissions "well over" what the province's modelling had projected.

In past months, Toronto, Peel and York regions made up around 70 per cent of the cases. On Thursday, they represented approximately 50 per cent, suggesting the number of cases outside the province's so-called hot zones are rising higher than they were previously. 

Province not ruling out curfew

Ontario has seen a 23 per cent increase in the number of cases per 100,000 people in just a matter of a week or so, he said, something he called "very concerning."

Speaking to reporters, Williams also suggested Ontario is considering measures similar to Quebec's curfew and Premier Doug Ford was speaking with Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

Before anything is confirmed, the province will have to consider what the specifics might look like and how enforcement will work, Williams said. 

The news comes as the provincial government says it is extending online learning for elementary students in southern Ontario until Jan. 25.

Province receives another 48,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine

At a photo opportunity this morning, Ford said he recently received new data that indicated COVID-19 positivity rates among children have been increasing. The data has caused concern about the reopening of schools, he said.

Meanwhile, Ontario has now received another 48,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, CBC News has learned from a government source.

Mayor John Tory says a small group of paramedics was vaccinated and trained in how to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday. They are set to begin vaccinating their colleagues on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

That means the province has received a total of 143,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far, with the first 95,000 received by Dec. 21. 

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said that as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, a total of just 72,630 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Ontario. 

Toronto begins vaccinating paramedics

Toronto began vaccinating its paramedics against COVID-19 on Wednesday, with a full program scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Mayor John Tory said a small group of paramedics were vaccinated and trained in how to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They were to begin vaccinating colleagues on Thursday.

Getting Toronto's full complement of paramedics vaccinated is a critical step in the city's COVID-19 response plan, Tory said.

"The 1,300 paramedics in our city, who have done such a fantastic job during the pandemic and of course every other day as well, are an extension of our emergency departments and play a vital role in our response to the pandemic," Tory said.

"Getting them vaccinated will not only protect all residents but also other front-line workers."

The city said paramedics who want to be vaccinated can receive doses at one of three sites across Toronto. Each site will be able to inoculate up to 50 paramedics per day.

The program is in partnership with Sunnybrook Hospital, Humber River Hospital, and the University Health Network.

Numbers rising in areas outside Toronto, Peel, York

The additional cases reported Thursday include 891 in Toronto, 568 in Peel Region, 467 in York Region, 208 in Windsor-Essex, 175 in Waterloo Region and 174 in Durham Region. 

Other regions that saw double- or triple-digit increases were:

  • Ottawa: 164
  • Hamilton: 146
  • Middlesex-London: 115
  • Niagara Region: 112
  • Halton Region: 95
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 90
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 78
  • Eastern Ontario: 36
  • Brant County: 27
  • Southwestern: 22
  • Chatham-Kent: 19
  • Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge: 17
  • Grey County: 16
  • Northwestern: 15
  • Algoma County: 15
  • Huron-Perth: 12
  • Peterborough: 12
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 11

(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.) 

Combined, the additional infections reported Thursday push the seven-day average of new daily cases to a new high of 3,141.

There are currently 26,718 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, the most at any point during the pandemic.

They come as the province's network of labs processed 65,772 test samples for novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.1 per cent.

The number of people in hospital with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and those being treated in intensive care also reached new highs and now sit at 1,472 and 363, respectively. Some 242 patients require the use of a ventilator, the province said.

The 89 deaths reported Thursday push the official toll to 4,856. The previous single-day high for COVID-19-linked deaths was on April 30, 2020, when 86 further deaths were recorded.

Nearly 76 per cent of all deaths in the province were residents in long-term care.

There are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 in 218 of Ontario's 626 long-term care facilities. On Thursday evening, officials at Tendercare Living Centre in Scarborough said two more residents have died since Wednesday, bringing the total deaths at the home to 73. It's the single deadliest long-term care outbreak in Ontario thus far.

As of Thursday, there are 23 active cases among residents at the home along with 32 staff members who are isolating.

LISTEN | The Current documentary on deaths of residents at Tendercare Living Centre:

With files from Lucas Powers, Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press

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