Ontario reports 3,166 new COVID-19 cases but says data may not be complete due to technical issues
Province says 5,885,485 doses of vaccine had been administered as of 8 p.m. Thursday
After a couple of days dipping below the 3,000 mark earlier this week, Ontario reported 3,166 new COVID-19 cases Friday along with 23 more deaths.
That brings the official death toll of people with the illness to 8,236.
The province is reporting 876 new cases in Toronto, 817 in Peel, 300 in York, 205 in Durham and 148 in Hamilton.
The seven-day average for cases, which smoothes out peaks and valleys in the data, dropped slightly to 3,266.
Today's case count may actually be higher than what is being reported. The province says it is dealing with a technical issue with the laboratory data feed, so numbers may be underreported for the Central East, Central West, and Toronto regions.
The numbers come with 51,338 tests completed — well below Ontario's capacity. It also puts the daily positivity rate for the province at seven per cent.
Ontario is also reporting 3,875 resolved cases.
After weeks of steady rises, some health system indicators improved in Ontario for the second straight day.
The number of people hospitalized dropped by 40 to 1,924, and the number of people in intensive care dropped by 19 to 858.
The number of patients on a ventilator rose by 11, however, up to 611.
Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, told CBC News that it appears the third wave of the virus is cresting.
"The worst does appear to be behind us, but make no mistake, the hospital system has only been able to deal with this challenge through superhuman effort," Dale said.
As of 8 p.m. Thursday, 5,885,485 doses of vaccine had been administered, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet. That's an increase of 144,724 vaccinations, and a new single-day record for the province.
We don't want to open prematurely and end up with a fourth wave.- Dr. Barbara Yaffe
Health officials said earlier this week they expect two-thirds of all adults in Ontario to have had a first shot by the end of May.
When asked Thursday if people could expect any loosening of public health restrictions later in May and heading into June, Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said the province is having "active discussions" around thresholds for any loosening of restrictions.
"We don't know yet, of course," she said.
But given that case numbers and hospitalization numbers remain high, Yaffe said she would be "surprised if things open up in the end of May.
"We don't want to open prematurely and end up with a fourth wave," Yaffe said.
Dale said while he in no way enjoys the current stay-at-home order, it's necessary.
"This is the worst civil emergency in this province's history, and we have to treat it like that," he said.
"Let's not make the same mistake that was made in the second wave, when public health measures were lifted prematurely."
What Ontario needs, he added is clearly defined metrics that will guide decisions on reopening: like vaccination rates, testing and tracing capacity, and the rate of reproduction for the virus.
"Let's have a serious plan that is guided by strict, quantitative measures to guide us on how to reopen safely."
Province expands rapid testing for some businesses
Also today, the province announced it is expanding rapid testing initiatives for businesses in Ontario.
The program, which has been dubbed the "COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative" will provide free rapid antigen tests for employees of small and medium-sized businesses through local chambers of commerce and other organizations.
In a news release, the province said more than 760,000 rapid test kits have been shipped to 28 chambers and over 50 others have expressed interest in participating in the program.
Experts have been calling on the province to ramp up its use of rapid COVID-19 tests, but federal data shows that only a small fraction have actually been used.
As of April 23, more than 7.4 million rapid antigen tests have been deployed across a number of sectors in Ontario, including long-term care and retirement homes, congregate care settings, Indigenous communities, schools and workplaces, the Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement.
When asked how many tests have been given, the Ministry of Health did not answer, but said it expects that rapid tests are used once they've been deployed.
Prime minster pushes back against attack ads
At a news conference Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back against attack ads from the Ontario government that claim the federal government is not doing enough to secure Canada's borders against COVID-19 cases — though travel has been a comparatively low source of virus transmission in Ontario for several months now.
Still, Premier Doug Ford and his ministers have been calling out Trudeau at press conferences for weeks, saying more needs to be done to restrict travel into the province.
Trudeau said Friday that he knows provincial leaders are under stress right now.
"Some will choose to point fingers and lay blame and even engage in personal attacks. That's not my approach and that's quite frankly not what Ontarians need," the Prime Minister said.
Trudeau said he spoke with Ford about the issue last week, and if Ontario has concerns about travel, he is more than willing to look at that right now.
Trudeau noted the border has been shut down to all but essential workers and a limited number of exceptions. The Prime Minster said he has offered to look at ending or further restricting entry when it comes to international student arrivals, temporary foreign workers, and compassionate exceptions.
He said Ford asked him last Thursday to restrict entry for international students, but also noted that the 30,000 students who came into Ontario over the past few months "were approved by the Ontario government."
"If the Ontario government wants to do more to restrict the volume of people coming in to Ontario, we are more than happy to work with them on it," Trudeau said. "But it's been a week since we've received that request directly from the premier that they haven't followed up on, except for personal attacks, which doesn't make sense and quite frankly won't help Ontarians."
With files from Adam Carter