Ontario reports record high 1,581 COVID-19 cases and 20 new deaths on Saturday

Ontario reported 1,581 new cases on Saturday, along with 20 new deaths. The record-breaking numbers were announced as Ontario has moved several more regions into its red "control" zone that features more restrictions.

Peel Region with 497 new cases outpaces Toronto with 456, health minister says

People walk in downtown Toronto as parts of Ontario enter the red-control zone of the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 system. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Ontario reported a record high 1,581 COVID-19 cases and 20 new deaths on Saturday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 497 of those cases were found in Peel Region, 456 in Toronto, 130 in York Region and 77 in Ottawa. More than 44,800 tests were completed, she said.

Ontario is also reporting 1,003 more cases marked as resolved.

Currently, there are 452 people in hospital, with 106 of those in intensive care units. Of those in intensive care, 67 are on ventilators. 

More regions placed in the red zone

On Friday, Ontario placed more regions in the red-control zone, a change that means increased restrictions for those areas. 

The move comes as critics say Premier Doug Ford's colour-coded system is too lenient.

Elliott announced the following cities and regions will move into the red-control zone of the province's framework on Friday:

  • Hamilton.
  • Halton.
  • Peel.
  • Toronto.
  • York.

Elliott said anyone living in a red-control region should only leave their home for essential purposes. The minister also announced the following regions will move to the orange-restrict zone:

  • Brant.
  • Durham.
  • Eastern Ontario.
  • Niagara.
  • Ottawa.
  • Waterloo.
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

The following regions are moving into the yellow-protect zone:

  • Haldimand-Norfolk.
  • Huron-Perth.
  • Middlesex-London.
  • Sudbury.
  • Simcoe-Muskoka.
  • Southwestern.
  • Windsor-Essex.

The changes come into effect on Monday, Nov. 16, at 12:01 a.m., with the exception of Toronto, which moved to the red zone on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 12:01 a.m.

"I know this will be difficult. You've already sacrificed so much," Ford said on Friday.

"We're staring down the barrel of another lockdown. And I will not hesitate for a second if we have to go further."

The province has made the thresholds for restrictions more strict, after they faced criticism that the criteria for more severe health measures was too high. 

The red zone, which is the most strict zone before a total lockdown, now includes a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent and a weekly incidence rate of above 40 per 100,000 people.

In the red zone, gatherings are confined to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Religious services, weddings and funerals are confined to 30 per cent capacity indoors and 100 people outdoors.

The maximum number of patrons permitted to be seated at a bar or restaurant indoors is 10. Outdoor dining, take out, drive-thru and delivery are all permitted.

New modelling released Thursday showed the province could face more than 6,000 COVID-19 cases per day by mid-December if it didn't add more public health restrictions.

As Peel is moved into the red zone, the region's public health unit said in a press release that it has created new fines that will see businesses charged if they "fail to take necessary action to prevent or stop spread of COVID-19."

Businesses will face a fine of up to $5,000 per day under a Section 22 Order that mandates employers implement protections for workers and cooperate with outbreak investigations when they occur in the workplace.

The order requires employers to not allow workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to enter the workplace and requires them to instruct their staff to self-isolate if this is the case. 

It also requires employers to: ensure infection control measures are in place, including distancing and masks, notify Peel Public Health and the Ministry of Labour if two or more employees have tested positive, and co-operate with directives from both those bodies. 

The region notes that while Ontario's Health Protection and Promotion Act does not compel employers to create paid sick leave, Peel Health "strongly recommends" that businesses do so. 

Officials issue statements on Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas celebrations

Ahead of religious celebrations over the weekend, several officials made statements to give best wishes to communities while reminding the public about gathering restrictions. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement Saturday where he wished the Hindu and Sikh communities in Toronto a happy Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas.

Tory also released video messages where he urged residents to celebrate the occasions only with members of their own households and to avoid gathering in large groups. He encouraged the public to celebrate virtually instead.

NDP federal leader Jagmeet Singh also issued a video statement on Twitter where he asked those celebrating to stay at home. 

"I know you may think it's just a casual visit to one your friend's homes, to one of your relatives homes. But that casual visit could mean someone falls sick to COVID-19," said Singh, stating that hospitalizations are rising and the healthcare system risks being overwhelmed due to the virus spread. 

Similarly, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's top doctor, also said on Twitter that like many other special occasions and celebrations that have been impacted by COVID-19 this year, she asked that Canadians celebrate virtually.

Intensive care units see rising numbers, as long-term care deaths climb

As Saturday's record-breaking numbers were reported, hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) are seeing more COVID-19 patients be admitted. The increased numbers may soon prompt hospitals to pause surgeries or other procedures not deemed as urgent. 

In Ontario, there are 452 people in hospital, with 106 of those in intensive care units. Of those in intensive care, 67 are on ventilators. 

As of Saturday, 79 people this week have died in Ontario's long-term care homes due to COVID-19.

At a press conference Friday, Elliott said Ontario has "significantly invested" in protecting those in long-term care and is building an "iron ring" around them. Those measures include ensuring there is personal protective equipment for staff there, that residents are protected from transmission and testing staff and residents on a regular basis, she said. 

WATCH | How COVID-19 is impacting long-term care homes during the fall surge of infections:

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"We're also going to move in some of the new rapid tests that we have recently received so that people can receive answers faster, whether it's family members or staff, to make sure they can go in to see their family members, to make sure that they are safe and don't have COVID-19," she said. 

Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician who works at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, said Friday that he and other health professionals are concerned about the elderly in long-term cares during the fall surge of COVID-19 cases. He's been critical of the province, accusing them of failing older residents in the homes during the first and second waves of the virus. 

"There are many people speaking specifically about the state of our health-care system as it pertains to ICU beds and hospital capacity but it's really, really critical to keep the focus as well on long-term care," he said at a news conference hosted by the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO). 

Major outbreak at long-term care home in east Toronto

 A total of 112 residents and 60 staff members are infected with COVID-19 at a Scarborough long-term care home, according to the company that runs the facility.

Sienna Senior Living reported the numbers at Rockcliffe Care Community, 3015 Lawrence Avenue E., on Friday at 9:25 a.m. The company says the current outbreak at the home, which has 204 beds, began on Nov. 2.

"Sienna's top priority is the health and safety of residents and team members — today more than ever," the company says in a message on its COVID-19 updates page.

"We are proud of the dedication and extraordinary work going on 24/7 in our residences, and have confidence in our processes and collective expertise to manage through this situation and play our role in helping to flatten the curve."

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