Number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario tops 10,000

Ontario reported 485 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday morning, bringing the official number to more than 10,000.

A total of 514 people have died of the virus, according to the provincial government,. The number includes 233 long-term care residents and one staff member.

CBC News, however, has collected data from regional public health units and counted at least 573 deaths in Ontario, including two health-care workers. The new CBC number shows an increase of 20 deaths since Friday night.

Nearly half of Ontario’s total 10,010 cases are now considered resolved.

However, today’s data may be incomplete, the health ministry noted. Technical issues prevented data from Toronto Public Health from feeding into provincial data, Health Minister Christine Elliot said Saturday, noting they are working on fixing the issue.

Of the people with COVID-19:

  • 828 people have been hospitalized 
  • 250 people are in the intensive care unit, 197 of whom are on a ventilator.
  • 1,139 healthcare workers have contracted the virus.

The daily average case growth rate was reported at around 5 per cent on Saturday. The increase in new cases had held steady at around 6 per cent for more than a week.

Revised, updated modelling coming on Monday

At a news conference on Saturday afternoon, Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said his team will share revised, updated modelling on Monday.

“We’re looking forward to hearing that to see how well have we done, where are we projecting now, what should be our focus now,” Williams said.

“Ontarians are going to hear that in some aspects we’ve done well so far.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, gestures during a news conference on Saturday. (CBC)

Williams said the next two-week period will be very important, even as he noted that the growth-rate of the virus has been going down across Canada, including Ontario. 

He said that “a smaller and smaller percentage of people” are coming forward for testing and are showing positive results. 

“We’re going to be looking at data to see how we’re doing Ontario-wide, regionally to inform decision-making,” Williams said.

$20 million for Ontario vaccine research

Premier Doug Ford announced $20 million for research to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, saying there is “no reason” a vaccine can’t come from Ontario.

Researchers can submit proposals until April 24. The government wants proposals with a “high chance of success” that can get results within one year—or two years at a maximum, said Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano on Saturday.

“We believe we can find that vaccine right here in Ontario,” Romano said.

Another COVID-19 death at Anson Place

On Saturday Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville — the site of one of Ontario’s deadliest outbreaks — confirmed yet another death linked to COVID-19

“Anson Place Care Centre is deeply saddened to report that one additional resident has passed away due to COVID-19, executive director Lisa Roth said in a statement.

“This news, unfortunately, brings the total number of COVID-19 related deaths at Anson Place Care Centre to 23.”

Out of the 23 deaths, 20 were within the care centre and three were within the retirement residence, Roth said.

She added that the confirmed cases have increased from 70 to 71 residents, with 50 from the care centre and 21 from the retirement residence.

Union asks government to take control of 2 care homes

Citing “serious concerns” about management, one healthcare union has asked the provincial government to take over control of Eatonville Care Centre and Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville.

Between the two facilities, “46 people have died that we are aware of, but the actual number is likely higher,” said Service Employees International Union Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart in an open letter to the premier and health minister.  She noted that Eatonville and Anson Place are owned by the same company.

“Our members working on the frontline of these facilities have lost all confidence that everything that can be done is being done to keep people safe and protected.”

“The provincial governments of Quebec and British Columbia have used their authorities to investigate where necessary and assume control when management fail to uphold their obligations to staff and residents,” the letter said.

“We believe management at these facilities have failed.”

Minister of Lonterm Care Merrilee Fullerto said several groups are coordinating to help struggling long-term care homes, including Trillium Health.

But, she said, “Ontario does not manage homes.”

Ontario’s home management situation has “evolved differently” from British Colombia and Quebec, she said.

108 long-term care homes with outbreaks

There have been 1,322 cases reported among long-term care residents, and 637 among staff as of Saturday.

Testing has increased at long-term care facilities, which saw a rising number of COVID-19 cases this week. Of the new cases on Friday, nearly 60 per cent were from long-term care homes.

There are now 108 long-term care homes in Ontario reporting COVID-19 outbreaks, which is roughly one out of every six facilities province-wide. 

Four long-term care homes in Ontario have reported more than 20 deaths each:

  • Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon: 29 deaths.
  • Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto: 31 deaths.
  • Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville. 23 deaths.
  • Seven Oaks in Toronto: 22 deaths.

However, some families of long-term care residents are demanding answers about unclear communication on the spread of COVID-19 infections in certain facilities. 

The SEIU Healthcare president also requested an immediate meeting with the premier to discuss extra steps to protect frontline workers.

One of the union’s longtime members, a “caring and compassionate” personal support worker in Scarborough, recently died after contracting COVID-19.

Community cases likely ‘peaked’

While testing is ramping up among long-term care homes, case numbers in the general community are going down, Williams said earlier on Saturday.

Among cases in the community, “I feel we have peaked,” said Williams, speaking on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air Saturday morning. He noted officials will need to confirm with projections from data modellers.

But, he said, this doesn’t mean the province can go back to normal — that would be a “big mistake.”

Bending the community curve means hospitals can “take a breath” and assess things, while attention and resources can go into long-term care and retirement homes, Williams said.

If community and long-term care numbers had peaked at same time, the system would have been overloaded, he said.

‘What’s the new normal going to be?’

The province will have to look at when to start dialling back physical distancing measures. But there’s a question around “what’s the new normal going to be?” said Williams.

In the future, people will have to have open dialogue about resuming normal activities, he said — but with less “casualness” than before.

“Every Ontarian has worked hard at this,” he said, and the province doesn’t want to see that effort “thwarted.”

Right now, we can’t “just throw the doors open,” said Williams, as Ontario’s numbers are still coming down.

“That would be a big mistake.”

City officials hold talks on how to restart Toronto

Toronto Mayor John Tory met with city officials on Saturday to talk about how to “safely restart the city” and he said what is needed is a “very careful plan.”

The city is mapping out plans right now 

“When exactly we restart the city depends on each and every one of us,” Tory said.

“We are not there yet.”

Outbreaks at 80+ Toronto health-care facilities, shelters

Meanwhile, more than 80 Toronto health-care facilities and shelters are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 as experts warn the city’s daily new cases could continue to spike, even as the number of cases province-wide may be levelling off.

In total, 102 deaths — primarily in long-term care homes — have been reported at these Toronto sites so far.

Toronto’s full case count is roughly a third of all 9,500 or so cases reported across Ontario.

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