Ontario reports record-high 2,923 new COVID-19 cases as ICU admissions reach pandemic high
Moderna vaccine expected to be made available for use in Ontario today
Ontario reported a single-day record of 2,923 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, as hospitalizations and intensive care admissions of people with the illness reached all-time highs.
It's not yet clear if today's total includes any cases that went unreported around Christmas.
Currently there are 1,177 patients in hospital with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest number of admissions since the start of the pandemic in late January.
Of those, 323 are being treated in intensive care and 204 require ventilators to breathe.
Ontario hospitals continue to warn that intensive care units are reaching maximum capacity and threatening to overwhelm the wider health-care system.
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in the east end of Toronto, called the pace of ICU admissions "extremely concerning," saying several hospitals are already over capacity.
Warner said in the four months that roughly constitute Ontario's second wave, a total of 1,252 patients have been treated in ICUs in the province, topping the 1,228 who were admitted during the previous wave in the spring and early summer.
"The trajectory is highly concerning. Non-COVID-related care is and will continue to be cancelled and patients are dying every week of this disease in Ontario's ICUs," Warner told CBC News.
"We need to rely on people to exercise better judgment and to listen to public health. That message needs to be delivered, perhaps, more forcefully."
Today's record case count tops the province's previous high of 2,553 reported yesterday. It includes 998 newly confirmed infections in Toronto, also a record high for the city.
Further, there were 441 new cases in Peel Region, 408 in York Region, 158 in Durham Region and 144 in Windsor-Essex.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Halton: 114.
- Niagara: 82.
- Hamilton: 69.
- Waterloo: 69.
- Ottawa: 68.
- London: 67.
- Simcoe Muskoka: 65.
- Southwestern: 46.
- Lambton: 40.
- Brant County: 25.
- Chatham-Kent: 21.
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 20.
- Huron Perth: 17.
- Eastern Ontario: 16.
- Leeds, Grenville and Lanark: 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, because local units report figures at different times.]
The province also reported an additional 19 deaths of people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 4,474.
Today's figures come as Ontario's network of labs processed 39,210 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 8.4. Another 54,955 tests are in the queue waiting to be completed.
Ontario's cumulative case count now sits at 178,831. The province's seven-day average has also reached a new record-high, climbing to 2,310.
Ontario releases ethics framework for COVID-19 vaccines
Meanwhile, Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine task force detailed its plan for the "ethical distribution" of vaccines across the province today.
The task force outlined six key guiding principles which include: minimizing harm, equity and fairness. The province will use the principles to determine who is prioritized for vaccines in the coming months.
The province says it will work to protect those at greatest risk of serious illness due to biological, social and geographical factors.
The framework comes as some 50,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be made available for use in Ontario today.
Retired general Rick Hillier, who is leading the province's COVID-19 vaccination program, says the drug will be distributed to long-term care and retirement homes.
He says immunizations are slated to start there within days of the delivery.
Hillier said Tuesday that more than half of Ontarians — about 8.5 million — should receive the vaccine by the end of July.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Hillier called on Health Canada to "look into" the possibility of providing Moderna's vaccine as a single dose, rather than two, in a bid to quickly expand capacity as cases of the illness surge in the province.
"I know it's late to ask for a Christmas gift," Hillier told reporters. "But if I could ask for one, I would ask Health Canada to re-look at the Moderna vaccine and see if we can make that a one-shot vaccine to give us that greater capacity to go out and vaccinate people even faster than we plan on doing it now."
As it stands currently, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses administered about 28 days apart.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only other COVID-19 vaccine currently approved for use by Health Canada, also involves two doses, taken some three weeks apart.
The drug is already being administered to health-care workers, but its storage requirements limit where that can be done.
With files from Julia Knope and The Canadian Press