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Ontario's COVID-19 death toll tops 9,800 as hospital networks enact vaccine mandates for visitors

Ontario reported 306 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the death toll in the province surpassed 9,800 and a number of major hospital networks said they are enacting mandatory vaccinations for visitors in addition to their staff.

Weeks-long downward trend in new daily cases continues

Ontario reported 153 patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses on Wednesday, 102 of whom require a ventilator to breathe. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 306 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the death toll in the province surpassed 9,800 and a number of major hospital networks said they are enacting mandatory vaccinations for visitors in addition to their staff.

University Health Network in Toronto, which introduced an early vaccine mandate for staff that went beyond a provincial directive, is now planning to ask visitors for proof of full vaccination starting Oct. 22.

Spokeswoman Gillian Howard says the hospital network cares for some of the most immune-compromised and immune-suppressed people in the province, so they want to do everything possible to protect the patients.

Beginning on Oct. 25, Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga and west Toronto will require proof of vaccination from people going to visit patients, except for partners of patients in labour and delivery, patients at the end of life, pediatric patients and those in the emergency department.

They say they will not be accepting a negative test in lieu of full vaccination for all other visitors, in order to devote staff resources to focus on patient care.

Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance says it will require family and caregivers to be fully vaccinated starting Nov. 1, with similar exceptions as Trillium Health Partners.

"Our primary responsibility to those needing our hospitals for care and to our team is to provide as safe an environment as possible," president and CEO Andrew Williams said in a statement.

"Requiring full vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the best ways of achieving this."

Province announces plans for 2 new LTC homes in Oakville

Rod Phillips, Ontario's minister of long-term care, announced on Wednesday that the provincial government plans to build two long-term care homes in Oakville with beds for 640 residents. 

"This site is an important part of our plan to fix long term care," Phillips told reporters.

The two homes are expected to open in 2025 and both will offer "culturally appropriate" services to members of the Hindu and Sikh communities, Phillips told reporters. 

"When it comes to our elders, language, music, food, faith — these are all aspects that really make the experience better," he said.

"These are facilities that will still broadly be open to the broader public. We understand that as Ontario changes, the delivery of care needs to change to reflect those culturally unique elements."

Phillips said the government's plan to fix long term care is built on three pillars: staffing and care; accountability, enforcement and transparency; and building modern, safe and comfortable homes for seniors.

In a news release on Wednesday, the Ontario government said the homes are being made possible through a provincial initiative to sell unused government land on the condition that a portion of the land is used for long-term care.

The government said it has signed a conditional agreement of purchase and sale with Schlegel Villages Inc. for 2165 Dundas St. W. in Oakville, a site near the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.

The sale of the surplus government land is expected to be completed early next year.

Downward trend in new cases continues

Meanwhile, the 306 new cases reported today in the province is the fewest since early August. 

While overall daily cases have been trending downward for weeks, testing levels dropped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which could be a factor in today's count.

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 500.

Twelve additional deaths pushed the official toll to 9,804.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health's daily provincial update:

New school-related cases: 269 reported between last Friday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. About 93 per cent were students. Five of the 4,844 publicly-funded schools in Ontario are closed due to COVID-19.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 153, with 102 needing a ventilator to breathe.

Tests completed in the last 24 hours: 23,219, with a positivity rate of 1.7 per cent.

Active cases: 4,136, with roughly one-third associated with the public school system.

Vaccinations: 29,857 doses were administered by public health units on Tuesday. Roughly 82.4 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 years and older have now had two doses of vaccine.

 

With files from The Canadian Press

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