COVID-linked deaths in Ontario top 7,000 as record-high number get vaccine shots

Ontario reported another 958 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the number of deaths linked to the illness in the province topped 7,000 and public health units administered a record number of vaccines.

At least 8 health units offering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors 80 and older

A care home worker gets the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported another 958 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the number of deaths linked to the illness in the province topped 7,000 and public health units administered a record number of vaccines.

The new cases — the fewest logged on a single day in two weeks — include 249 in Toronto, 164 in Peel Region and 92 in York Region.

Other health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Ottawa: 57
  • Hamilton: 47
  • Waterloo Region: 46
  • Durham Region: 41
  • Thunder Bay: 30
  • Middlesex-London: 28
  • Niagara Region: 23
  • Sudbury: 22
  • Windsor-Essex: 21
  • Halton Region: 20
  • Peterborough: 18
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 18
  • Brant County: 17
  • Eastern Ontario: 13
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 12

(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 on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)

They come as Ontario's lab network completed 52,613 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and reported a test positivity rate of 2.4 per cent.

Labs also recorded 10 more cases linked to the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, bringing the total confirmed by genomic sequencing thus far to 552.

According to the province, a total of 1,078 test samples were screened for the tell-tale spike gene that suggests the presence of a variant of concern. The spike was detected in 325, or about 30 per cent, of those samples. 

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 1,084. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education reported another 160 school-related infections: 138 students, 21 staff members and one person who was not identified. Twenty-four schools are currently closed to the illness. That's about 0.5 per cent of Ontario's 4,828 publicly-funded schools.

A total of 668 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health. Of those, 274 were being treated in intensive care and 188 needed a ventilator.

The 17 additional deaths in today's update push the province's official toll to 7,014.

Meanwhile, health units administered 27,398 doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, topping the previous high by more than 3,000 shots. Some 266,710 people in Ontario have now received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Halton Region announced this morning that its health unit will begin booking vaccine appointments for residents aged 80 and older. It is the latest to join a growing list of cities and municipalities offering appointments and shots before the province's centralized system launches on March 15. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said yesterday that the province will soon release an updated rollout plan and timeline for the ongoing immunization campaign, in light of Health Canada's approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine late last week.

The province is also awaiting guidance from federal health authorities and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on whether the time between doses can be extended up to four months.

British Columbia has already opted for a 16-week interval, while Quebec has allowed for up to 90 days between shots. Both jurisdictions say a longer interval will allow more residents to get a first dose of vaccine earlier.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, suggested yesterday that more clarity is expected from NACI soon.


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