Ontario reports 809 new COVID-19 cases as number of deaths tops 3,000

Ontario is reporting 809 new cases and seven more deaths of COVID-19 on Saturday, the day that new restrictions take effect in three areas of the province.

New restrictions take effect in Toronto, Peel Region, Ottawa to bring surging numbers under control

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott speaks to reporters on Friday after the provincial government announced new restrictions in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Ontario is reporting 809 new cases and seven more deaths of COVID-19 on Saturday, the day that new restrictions take effect in three areas of the province.

The total number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Ontario now stands at 3,004. New restrictions have been imposed on Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.

A total of 213 people are hospitalized, with 48 in intensive care units and 29 in those units on ventilators.

Of the newly reported cases, Toronto had 358, Peel Region had 123, Ottawa had 94 and York Region had 76, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet on Saturday.

A total of 700 more cases of the novel coronavirus are now marked as resolved, bringing the total number of resolved cases to 49,732.

Ontario's total of cases since the outbreak began in January, or cumulative total, is 58,490 as of Saturday.

The province's network of labs completed 44,298 tests on Friday. The government says it has a backlog of 56,138 tests.

According to Ontario's status of cases webpage, more women than men have died of the novel coronavirus. A total of 1,598 women have died, while 1,373 men have died.

The number of long-term care homes reporting an active break as of Saturday is now 58, an increase of two since Friday.

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics for Mount Sinai Hospital and the University Health Network in Toronto, said doctors asked the province repeatedly for the new restrictions. 

"This is what many of my colleagues and I have been asking for for over a week. And frankly, even delaying a week, it's going actually to cause problems where we're going to see unnecessary cases and deaths," he said.

Sinha said it's important to remember that one out of three long-term care residents who test positive will die from COVID-19.

He notes that hospitals, unlike in the spring, haven't been emptied out.

"We don't actually have that capacity. We're tired. We have full hospitals. We have ICUs that are near capacity already. And we are worried. Can we keep the system running? And can we handle the surge? And oh by the way, flu season is right around the corner," he said.

Restrictions aimed at bringing numbers down

The latest case count comes a day after the Ontario government announced it had to take action to bring rising numbers of COVID-19 infections under control.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a news release on Saturday about Thanksgiving: 'We must all do our part to keep gathering sizes small by sticking to our immediate households.' (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford said the government had little choice, even though he had argued for some time that he hadn't seen enough data to justify stronger measures. Information presented to him by his health advisors on Thursday evening changed his mind, he said.

"All trends are going in the wrong direction," Ford said. "Left unchecked, we risk worse case scenarios first seen in Italy and New York City."

As of Saturday, indoor dining at restaurants and bars in the three hot spot regions are prohibited, while gyms, movie theatres and casinos are closed. The measures are in place for at least 28 days.

The government is also asking all Ontarians to leave their homes only for essential purposes. Schools and places of worship remain open across the province.

'These aren't normal times,' premier says

In a news release on Saturday, Ford urged all Ontario residents to celebrate Thanksgiving with members of their immediate households only. If a person lives alone, that person may join another household, Ford said.

The premier said "these aren't normal times," and residents have to make adjustments. 

"On the advice of the chief medical officer of health, it's not enough to limit the size of Thanksgiving gatherings to 10 people or less. We must all do our part to keep gathering sizes small by sticking to our immediate households," Ford said.

"If you live alone, you may join one other household to ensure no one is alone or isolated this holiday season, but please take the necessary precautions to keep gatherings small."

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, had slightly different advice in her remarks to reporters on Friday, saying people who live alone should connect virtually with loved ones on Thanksgiving.

"My advice is that you are safest spending Thanksgiving only with the people you live with in your home. That isn't an easy ask of people who live alone and I'm sorry that I have to ask it. But if at all possible, connect virtually rather than in person," De Villa said.

Thanksgiving dinner will look different amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

On Saturday scores of anti-mask protestors gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square in defiance of restrictions announced by the province.

Rising number of cases reported in older age groups

Dr. Theresa Tam. Canada's chief public health officer, said in a statement on Saturday that the highest case numbers over the summer were in the 20 to 29 age group, but that pattern has shifted and Canada is now seeing increasing case counts in older age groups, where the risk of severe illness is higher.

Tam said a growing number of outbreaks are being reported in long-term care homes and retirement residences, where COVID-19 can often cause deaths. So far, the outbreaks involve a lower number of infected cases than they did in April and May.

"We must do everything possible to prevent introduction and further spread of the virus in these settings," Tam said.

"We all have a shared responsibility to help protect those at highest risk. When spread of COVID-19 is kept to low levels in the community, this decreases the risk of exposure for older Canadians in our communities and the likelihood that the virus will enter and take hold in care homes."

Anti-mask protestors returned to downtown Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday. (CBC)

Here are a list of the measures that take effect Saturday for at least 28 days:

  • A ban on indoor food and drink services in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other food-and-drink establishments.
  • Closure of indoor gyms and fitness centres, casinos, bingo halls, indoor cinemas and performing arts centres.
  • Closure of interactive exhibits in museums, galleries, zoos and science centres.
  • A limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained for all social gatherings and organized public events.
  • A ban on personal care services that require face coverings to be removed, such as beard trimming and makeup application.
  • Limiting team sports to training sessions.
  • Reducing real estate open houses to 10 people indoors, where physical distancing can be maintained.

With files from Muriel Draaisma, Lorenda Reddekopp, The Canadian Press