Ontario sees 2,655 new COVID-19 cases as more workplace enforcement set to begin

Ontario reported another 2,655 cases of COVID-19 and 89 more deaths of people with the illness on Wednesday, as the government said it is expanding its workplace enforcement effort to include farming operations and essential businesses in the service sector.

The new cases include 925 in Toronto, 473 in Peel Region, 226 in York Region and 179 in Windsor-Essex County, which continues to see a huge strain on its intensive care units.

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

  • Niagara Region: 129
  • Waterloo Region: 101
  • Ottawa: 86
  • Hamilton: 75
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 71
  • Durham Region: 70
  • Middlesex-London: 65
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 56
  • Halton Region: 51
  • Southwestern: 20
  • Thunder Bay: 17
  • Eastern Ontario: 16
  • Haldimand-Norfolk: 16
  • Porcupine: 14
  • Chatham-Kent: 13
  • Lambton: 12
  • Huron-Perth: 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.)

The infections come as Ontario’s network of labs processed 54,307 test samples for the novel coronavirus — a third straight day well below the system’s capacity of more than 70,000 — and logged a test positivity rate of 4.9 per cent. 

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,850, marking 10 consecutive days of decreases from a high of 3,555.

Notably, another 3,714 cases were marked resolved in today’s update. There were 26,467 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide as of yesterday evening, a figure that has trended downward since the pandemic peak of 30,632 on Jan. 11. 

The 89 additional deaths match the previous single-day record, which came on Jan. 7. (Public health units recorded 100 deaths on Jan. 15, however 46 of those deaths occurred “earlier in the pandemic,” the Ministry of Health said at the time, and were included in that day’s total due to data clean-up in the Middlesex-London Health Unit.)

There were 1,598 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. Of those, 395 were being treated in intensive care, while 296 required a ventilator to breathe.

Enforcement campaign to ramp up, province says

Meanwhile, the province said in a news release up to 300 inspectors will be involved in the enforcement blitz. The first campaign is to be held in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, with 10 others planned so far in Toronto, Durham, Niagara, Halton, Huron Perth, Peterborough and Leeds Grenville Lanark.

The announcement comes after Ministry of Labour inspectors targeted 240 big-box stores in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area over the weekend and found about 69 per cent of locations were in compliance with public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Similar actions last December found about 67 per cent compliance. The most common infractions were not wearing masks, not having a safety plan and not screening people in the workplace, the province said.

The government specifically identified the following types of  workplaces for its expanded campaign:

  • Retail establishments, including big-box stores.
  • Restaurants providing take-out meals.
  • Essential service-sector establishments, such as gas stations.
  • Farming operations, particularly those that employ temporary foreign workers.

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