Ontario reports 1,958 new COVID-19 cases amid changes to vaccines rollout

Ontario reported another 1,958 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as experts heading the province’s vaccination campaign outlined how they are responding to delays in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

The new cases in today’s update include 727 in Toronto, 375 in Peel Region and 157 in York Region. 

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

  • Windsor-Essex: 85
  • Niagara Region: 82
  • Durham Region: 62
  • Hamilton: 55
  • Halton Region: 54
  • Ottawa: 51
  • Middlesex-London: 46
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 41
  • Waterloo Region: 39
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 35
  • Huron-Perth: 29
  • Southwestern: 28
  • Chatham-Kent: 22
  • Lambton: 19
  • Eastern Ontario: 11
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 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.)

It was the fewest number of new infections logged on a single day in nearly a week. The seven-day average of daily cases continued its steady decline down to 2,371, the lowest it has been since Dec. 30, 2020.

Notably, however, Ontario’s network of labs processed just 35,968 test samples for the virus despite capacity for more than 70,000 daily. Collectively, they reported a test positivity rate of 5.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, at a media briefing this morning, members of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force said the province will delay first doses for health-care workers and essential caregivers amid a shortage of the Pfizer product. 

Available doses of vaccines will instead be channelled to residents of long-term care and at-risk retirement homes, as well as First Nations seniors living in elder care settings.

Health workers in the long-term care sector as well as essential caregivers were slated to be vaccinated during the initial stages of the province’s rollout, alongside residents. Due to delays in expected shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, however, the focus in coming weeks will be solely on people at the highest risk of severe illness or death, officials said.

The shift also means that front-line health-care workers in other settings, such as those doing direct patient care in hospitals, will have to wait longer than originally planned to be immunized.

100,000 students return to school

Schools in seven public health units across southern Ontario reopened for in-person classes today.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that means 100,000 students will be returning to the classroom for the first time since before the winter break.

The province is implementing more safety measures in areas where schools are reopening, including requiring students in grades 1 through 3 to wear masks indoors and when physical distancing isn’t possible outside as well.

It’s also introducing “targeted asymptomatic testing” in those regions.

While it’s been more than a month since students in southern Ontario have been in the classroom, classes resumed in the northern part of the province on Jan. 11.

The provincial government has said the chief medical officer of health is keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 situation in public health units where schools remain closed to decide when it’s safe for them to reopen.

But the province has said that in five hot spot regions — Windsor-Essex, Peel, York, Toronto and Hamilton — that won’t happen until at least Feb. 10.

The public health units where schools are reopened today were:

  • Grey Bruce
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge
  • Hastings and Prince Edward Counties
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark
  • Peterborough
  • Renfrew County

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