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Ontario sees 256 new COVID-19 cases, hits new high of more than 246,000 vaccinations

Ontario reported 256 more cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while public health units hit a new single-day high for vaccinations for the second time this week. 

Opposition parties make back-to-school demands; arts groups urge clarity on reopening

Ontario is averaging more than 200,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per day. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 256 more cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while public health units hit a new single-day high for vaccinations for the second time this week. 

The 246,393 doses administered Thursday topped the previous high, set just two days earlier, by more than 19,000. Almost 89 per cent of the shots yesterday were second doses.

Ontario is now averaging more than 200,000 shots per day, and nearly 77 per cent of those aged 18 and older have had a first shot and more than 30 per cent are fully immunized.

A spokesperson for the minister of health said this morning that Christine Elliott received a second dose earlier this week. Like Premier Doug Ford, Elliott's first shot was the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Unlike Ford, who opted for a subsequent dose of AstraZeneca yesterday, Elliott instead got an mRNA vaccine for her second — a decision in line with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization's most recent guidance.

The province also announced Friday that it is offering faster second COVID-19 vaccine doses to more residents.

Starting Saturday, youth aged 12 to 17 who live in 10 hot spots for the delta variant of concern can book faster appointments beginning at 8 a.m.

All adults in Ontario who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine can book accelerated second appointments on Monday. That change means approximately 1.5 million Ontarians are about to be eligible for an accelerated second dose.

Meanwhile, today's case count is down from last Friday, when the province reported 345 newly confirmed infections.

Labs completed more than 26,500 tests and Public Health Ontario logged a provincewide positivity rate of 1.3 per cent. Nine of the last 10 days have seen positivity rates below 2 per cent.

The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 281, its lowest point since Sept. 17, 2020. 

As of yesterday, there were 284 people being treated in intensive care units for COVID-related illnesses, including 10 who were transferred from hospitals in Manitoba. It is the first time the total number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs has dipped below 300 since February 20, or more than four months.

The Ministry of Health also recorded the deaths of two more people with the illness. A total of 9,101 people have died with COVID-19 in Ontario to date. 

Opposition parties lay out back-to-school demands

Meanwhile Ontario's opposition parties said Friday the government needs to focus on ventilation upgrades and smaller class sizes as it crafts its back-to-school plan for the fall.

The provincial Liberals and New Democrats detailed their demands as the school year winds down.

New Democrats want the government to commit more funding to schools and are asking for class sizes of 15 students maximum.

The Liberals put a $2.3 billion price tag on their own proposed plan, which includes $500 million for ventilation upgrades, summer learning programs and class sizes of 20.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said an announcement on the back-to-school plan will come in July, after assessing the vaccination rate among staff and students.

The Progressive Conservative government, which faces an election next summer, has earmarked $1.6 billion for COVID-19 response and $85.5 million for learning recovery in the 2021-2022 school year.

Live theatre, concerts organizations urge clarity on reopening

As well, advocates for Ontario's live music and performing arts industries say a lack of transparency around reopening the province is putting their futures at risk.

Provincial and municipal leaders, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, met virtually with lobbyists for the arts and culture sector to hear their concerns over an unclear roadmap for reopening in the third step of the pandemic recovery and beyond.

The resounding message was that arts industries that hope to welcome live audiences back into venues need more than a week's notice from health authorities as they struggle to book musical acts and plan live stage shows.

"Come From Away" actor Ali Momen, speaking on behalf of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, says such short notice is "crippling our hard-hit sector further by crushing our ability to prudently plan."

He says theatre companies "have received little indication" of what reopening may look like in Ontario later this year.

Jesse Kumagai, chair of the Canadian Live Music Association, told leaders that reaching full capacity at concert venues after Step 3 is "something we believe we can and should be able to do" if taking the lead from other regions that are "more advanced" in the return to live events.

On Thursday, the province dropped details on moving into Step 2 six days before it takes effect.

Provincial health officials say they don't intend to move into the next stage until "approximately 21 days" after the start of the second step. 

With files from Lucas Powers and The Canadian Press

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