Ontario’s top doctor holds COVID-19 update amid record-high new cases and deaths

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, is providing an update on the COVID-19 situation in the province beginning at 3 p.m. ET in Toronto. 

CBC News is carrying the news conference live. 

Ontario reported a single-day record of 3,519 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 89 more deaths of people with the illness — the deadliest day so far of the entire pandemic for the province.

“This has been a significant week for us,” said Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, noting today marked the highest number of cases the province has seen since the start of the pandemic, as well as deaths.

The hope is from here the numbers might start coming down, Williams said, although he expressed concerns the numbers could swell to 4,000 cases per day. 

On top of that, Williams said hospitals are seeing record numbers of patients with ICU admissions “well over” what the province’s modelling had projected.

In past months, York, Peel and Toronto made up around 70 per cent of the cases. Today, they represent approximately 50 per cent, suggesting the number of cases outside the province’s so-called hot zones are rising higher than they were previously. 

Ontario has seen a 23 per cent increase in the number of cases per 100,000 people in just a matter of a week or so, he said, something he called “very concerning.”

The news comes as the provincial government says it is extending online learning for elementary students in southern Ontario until Jan. 25.

At a photo opportunity this morning, Ford said he recently received new data that indicated COVID-19 positivity rates among children have been increasing. The data has caused concern about the reopening of schools, he said.

Meanwhile, Ontario has now received another 48,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, CBC News has learned from a government source.

That means the province has received a total of 143,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far, with the first 95,000 received by Dec. 21. 

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said that as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, a total of just 72,630 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Ontario. 

The additional cases reported Thursday include 891 in Toronto, 568 in Peel Region, 467 in York Region, 208 in Windsor-Essex, 175 in Waterloo Region and 174 in Durham Region. 

Other regions that saw double- or triple-digit increases were:

  • Ottawa: 164
  • Hamilton: 146
  • Middlesex-London: 115
  • Niagara Region: 112
  • Halton Region: 95
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 90
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 78
  • Eastern Ontario: 36
  • Brant County: 27
  • Southwestern: 22
  • Chatham-Kent: 19
  • Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge: 17
  • Grey County: 16
  • Northwestern: 15
  • Algoma County: 15
  • Huron-Perth: 12
  • Peterborough: 12
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 11

(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.) 

Combined, the additional infections reported Thursday push the seven-day average of new daily cases to a new high of 3,141.

There are currently 26,718 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, the most at any point during the pandemic.

They come as the province’s network of labs processed 65,772 test samples for novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.1 per cent.

The number of people in hospital with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and those being treated in intensive care also reached new highs and now sit at 1,472 and 363, respectively. Some 242 patients require the use of a ventilator, the province said.

The 89 deaths reported Thursday push the official toll to 4,856. The previous single-day high for COVID-19-linked deaths was on April 30, 2020, when 86 further deaths were recorded.

Nearly 76 per cent of all deaths in the province were residents in long-term care.

There are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 in 218 of Ontario’s 626 long-term care facilities. On Wednesday evening, officials at Tendercare Living Centre in Scarborough said that 71 residents have now died since early December, making it the single deadliest long-term care outbreak in Ontario so far.

LISTEN | The Current documentary on deaths of residents at Tendercare Living Centre:

The Current20:2371 dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre in Ontario

We speak to families of some of the residents of Tendercare Living Centre in Scarborough, Ont., where a COVID-19 outbreak has killed 71 people. Dr. Samir Sinha discusses the failings that are allowing situations like this to continue, months after the horrors of the first wave. 20:23

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