Ontario sees 1,563 new COVID-19 cases, 88 more deaths

Ontario reported another 1,563 cases of COVID-19 and 88 more deaths of people with the illness on Thursday. 

Notably, Toronto Public Health (TPH) has not clarified if its data is entirely accurate following a migration to the province’s centralized COVID-19 tracking system earlier this week. The province previously cautioned the move could impact the reliability of case counts throughout the week.

The figures today come as public health officials prepare to present the results of a study that aimed to identify the prevalence of variants of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — in Ontario.

The study represents just a snapshot in time, as it analyzed all positive COVID-19 tests from Jan. 20, 2021, for the presence of so-called “variants of concern,” such as those that were first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

As of yesterday, there had been 152 confirmed cases of B117, the variant first found in the U.K., and 1 confirmed case of the variant identified in South Africa. 

Dr. Vanessa Allen, chief of microbiology and laboratory science at Public Health Ontario, is scheduled to speak at the province’s regular 3 p.m. ET news conference. You’ll be able to watch it live in this story.

Test positivity rate lowest since October

With the above caveat about the data from TPH in mind, the new cases reported today include 584 in Toronto, 265 in Peel Region and 132 in York Region.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Hamilton: 78
  • Halton Region: 58
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 55
  • Waterloo Region: 51
  • Ottawa: 46
  • Durham Region: 34
  • Chatham-Kent: 24
  • Windsor-Essex: 24
  • Middlesex-London: 21
  • Eastern Ontario: 20
  • Southwestern: 16
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 12
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 12
  • Huron-Perth: 11
  • Lambton: 10
  • Thunder Bay: 10

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 1,600. While it’s imprudent to give too much weight to this week’s wider trends given that the magnitude of the impact of Toronto’s data migration on case numbers is unclear, the seven-day average has been in steady decline since its peak of 3,555 on Jan. 11.

So too has has the number of confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, as cases marked resolved continued to outpace new infections. There are currently some 16,330 actives cases provincewide, down from a high of more than 30,000 in mid-January.

Today’s newly confirmed cases come as Ontario’s network of labs completed 64,467 tests for the virus and reported a test positivity rate of 2.6 per cent, the lowest since Oct. 24, 2020. Another 22,636 tests are in the queue to be processed.

The 88 COVID-19-linked deaths recorded by public health units is the second-most ever recorded on a single day (89 deaths were logged on both Jan. 7 and Jan. 20 this year). They push Ontario’s official toll to 6,393.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s vaccine rollout continued slowly. The province said it administered another 6,724 doses yesterday. Just 18,227 shots have been given out so far this week. 

Officials have said there is currently capacity to provide up to 40,000 doses every day, but uncertainty about future shipments has forced the campaign to stall. 

A total of 80,977 people in Ontario have received both shots and are fully immunized, according to the Ministry of Health. 

Pet groomers allowed to open for some services

The Solicitor General’s office said this morning that it is updating its pandemic regulations to allow pet groomers to reopen for certain services.

Groomers can reopen to provide services necessary to prevent “foreseeable and reasonably imminent” veterinary care, the office said.

Groomers can also provide services if an order has been issued to a pet owner under the province’s animal welfare act.

The services must be by appointment-only, through curbside pickup, and groomers are only permitted to take one animal at a time.

Pet grooming businesses were ordered closed when a provincial lockdown took effect in late December.

The province had said, however, that pet grooming was allowed when required for an animal’s health and said a vet could provide those services.

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton-area mayors and chairs had asked the government to clarify the rules.

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