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Reopening plans 'shortsighted,' doctor says as Ontario reports 1,087 new COVID-19 cases

Ontario reported 1,087 new COVID-19 cases and 13 new deaths on Sunday. The province also reported there are more than 400 cases of variants of concern in Ontario.

Province says there are more than 400 cases of variants in Ontario

Ontario reported 1,087 new COVID-19 cases and 13 new deaths on Sunday, marking the fourth straight day in which daily case counts have topped 1,000. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A doctor who was demoted after speaking out about the province's handling of the pandemic expressed concern on Sunday about Ontario's reopening plans as the province reported 1,087 new COVID-19 cases. 

Dr. Brooks Fallis, a critical care physician at the William Osler Health System, said in an interview on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live that he believes Ontario is headed for a third wave amid the rising numbers of cases involving variants of concern, and that not enough is being done to prevent it. 

"I think we're doing really everything too quickly," Fallis said.

"I think we should be taking a real pause across the province and across the country to realize how serious the implications of these variants are." 

The province reported on the weekend that there are more than 400 cases of variants of concern in Ontario.

There are 391 cases of the B117 variant, the one first detected in the United Kingdom, nine cases of the B.1.351 variant, the one first detected in South Africa, and one case of the P.1 variant, the one first detected in Brazil.

Why this doctor wants aggressive action around COVID-19 variants

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8 days ago
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In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Dr. Brooks Fallis speaks out against reopening plans in several provinces as officials study potential implications of the spread of new COVID-19 variants. 8:46

Along with variants being more transmissible and potentially more deadly, Fallis said there is potential for immune evasion for some strains. That means if a person contracted COVID-19 once, that person could get it again.

Once a variant of concern is established, particularly the variant first detected in the United Kingdom, it's very hard to contain, according to Fallis. 

From an economic perspective, Fallis said the reopening plans are "shortsighted," noting that the variants will "explode" in the population and lead right back to a lockdown.

"I don't really believe that it helps businesses to give them a short period of reopening, only to close them for longer because we open the door to the new variants."

Fallis has been publicly critical of the province's pandemic response, something he has said led to a demotion earlier this year as interim medical director of critical care at the William Osler Health System.

Both his employer and Premier Doug Ford's office deny that claim.

Fallis has said speaking out and advocating for a better response will meaningfully save lives and change the outcome of the pandemic, something he says is a physician's obligation. 

Ontario reports 1,087 new cases, 13 new deaths

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 1,087 new COVID-19 cases and 13 new deaths on Sunday, one day before York Region is set to move out of lockdown and back into the province's colour-coded pandemic response framework.

Most new cases were seen in the Greater Toronto Area, including 344 in Toronto, 156 in Peel Region and 122 in York Region, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said. 

Sunday is the fourth straight day in which daily case counts have topped 1,000.

As for new deaths, four are among residents in long-term care homes.

The additional deaths reported on Sunday bring the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities since the pandemic began to 6,861.

The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 sits at 660, a slight decrease from 699 seen on Saturday.

Of that number, 277 were being treated in ICU and the number of people on ventilators remained at 181, according to the health ministry. 

Ontario's network of labs processed 48,200 test samples in the past 24 hours, which pushed the province's positivity rate up to 2.7, Elliott said. 

As of Saturday, 556,533 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.

York Region will be in the red-control zone as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday. 

Toronto, Peel and the North Bay Parry Sound will remain under the stay-at-home order until at least March 8. 

Excitement 'palpable' at Toronto vaccination clinic 

Meanwhile, as the province prepares to deal with an increased supply of vaccines, the vaccination clinics themselves are being set up. 

In an interview on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live, Emily Musing, vice president of quality and safety at the University Health Network vaccination clinic, said this is the first week in several weeks that the network has been able to provide first doses to many people eligible according to the province's priority groups. 

Musing said her clinic is ready to vaccinate as many people in a day as possible. She said the clinic just needs the go-ahead from the province.

In an interview on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live, Emily Musing, vice president of quality and safety at the University Health Network vaccination clinic, said this is the first week in several weeks that the network has been able to provide first doses to many people eligible according to the province's priority groups.  (Rosemary Barton Live)

"The level of excitement, delight is palpable," she said of the people waiting in line at the clinic to receive their first or second dose of the vaccines. 

"People are seeing that, finally, a vaccine is available and they're going to be able to be protected against COVID-19." 

In a tweet, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie shared a photo of Paramount Fine Foods Centre field house completely transformed into one of the region's five vaccination sites.

The site, "where up to 600 people an hour can be vaccinated at full capacity" is slated to open soon, Crombie said in the tweet Sunday. 

Phase 1 of the rollout is expected to include adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care.

Phase 2 is set to begin as early as March. Under this phase, more vaccination sites will be added, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres.

About the Author

Sabrina Jonas is a Toronto-based journalist with a particular interest in social justice issues and human interest stories. Born and raised in Montreal, Sabrina moved to Toronto where she graduated from Ryerson's School of Journalism. Drop her an email at sabrina.jonas@cbc.ca

With files from Hannah Thibedeau

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