Ontario reports 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 more deaths

Ontario reported 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 more deaths on Sunday. 

January has seen 1,658 people die with COVID-19, making it the deadliest month of pandemic

An intensive care unit health care worker, inside a negative pressure room, cares for a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Ontario reported 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 more deaths on Sunday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said an additional 300 cases that were previously unreported were added to the overall case count on Sunday. The cases were not reported until now due to a "data catch-up" from Toronto Public Health. 

The new cases include 726 in Toronto, 306 in Peel Region, and 168 in York Region. 

Elliott said the province's network of labs completed nearly 49,400 tests in the past 24 hours. The province's test positivity rate now stands at 3.7 per cent. 

According to the provincial Ministry of Health COVID-19 data page, January of this year has seen 1,658 people die with COVID-19, making it the deadliest month of the pandemic so far. 

The deaths reported on Sunday bring Ontario's total COVID-related death toll to 6,188. 

Of the province's 43 new deaths, 21 are among long-term care residents. 

There are currently 1,159 patients hospitalized with the virus, of which 356 are in intensive care units. Of those patients, 252 are on ventilators.

The province said 2,816 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered since the last daily update. That means a total of 339,644 doses have been administered across the province.

According to Ontario Long Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton, a total of 230 long-term care homes in Ontario have COVID-19 cases.

In a tweet, Fullerton said that 111 homes have resident cases, of which 57 have fewer than five cases each. 

She said 119 homes with at least one staff member isolating and with no residents positive for COVID-19. 

 As of Sunday, 242,807 COVID-19 cases have been marked as resolved. 

Variant now in Waterloo linked to long-term care home

In Waterloo, Ont., officials say the first case of a more infectious new strain of COVID-19 detected in the region is connected to an outbreak at a long-term care home.

A Waterloo Region public health investigation has traced the patient to another person who travelled internationally.

The region says it expects more cases to emerge as Public Health Ontario completes more tests for the variant.

It's also confirmed that the variant case is connected to a COVID-19 outbreak declared at Columbia Forest long-term care home late in December.

Provincial officials have said the B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the U.K. last year, is more contagious and may cause more severe illness.

Public Health Ontario has confirmed 58 cases of the variant in the province and regional health officials have said they suspect the number is higher.

Big box store inspection blitz finds 59% compliance rate 

Another inspection blitz of big-box retailers on Saturday has resulted in 20 tickets and found that only 59 per cent of businesses were complying with current provincial orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The inspection blitz — marking the third of its kind this year — has led to 222 visits to businesses in the Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton regions to ensure compliance of current public health protocol.

Seven tickets were handed out at stores in Toronto and Hamilton while six were issued at Kitchener-Waterloo stores, a spokesperson for the Ontario labour ministry said in a statement to CBC Toronto on Sunday.

"Yesterday, we found a number of places weren't properly sanitizing and cleaning bathrooms and lunchrooms," Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton told CBC Toronto on Sunday.

He said the current compliance rate is "clearly not good enough" at this stage of the pandemic.

McNaughton said business report that mask-wearing and pre-screening of customers and workers continue to be issues.

A compliance rate of 79.5 per cent was found in Toronto, 41.3 per cent in Hamilton and 56.8 per cent in Kitchener-Waterloo. Eighteen Occupational Health and Safety orders were also issued: 13 in Kitchener-Waterloo, four in Hamilton and one in Toronto. 

McNaughton said there are "no excuses anymore, people know, businesses know exactly what they need to be doing."

Officials are expected to inspect another 200 stores on Sunday and will release the remaining data of the weekend blitz later.

Ontario's top doctors calling on province to reopen schools 

Ontario's regional public health officials are calling on the province to reopen schools.

The chair of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health wrote to the provincial health and education ministers asking for extra measures that would help children get back into classrooms safely.

The council says schools should be allowed to reopen before other public health restrictions are eased.

Schools in several southern Ontario regions with high infection rates, including the Toronto and Windsor areas, have been closed through January, with the province staggering reopening in areas that have fewer cases of COVID-19.

With files from Sabrina Jonas and The Canadian Press