A round up of coronavirus news in Ontario for February 17, 2021
4:15 pm Earlier today, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said she wants the province to extend the stay-at-home order in the city until at least March 9.
Calling the current confirmed COVID-19 variant cases “the tip of the iceberg,” she said physical distancing and lockdown restrictions would be an effective way to curb spread of these highly transmissible new coronavirus mutations.
She and Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh have written to Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, to to ask for a delay in lifting stay-at-home order restrictions that have been in place since January 14. They argue a return to the provincial reopening framework will give citizens a “false sense of security.”
Below are the four “critical reasons” they outlined in the letter:
1. Percentage of population vaccinated: While the City and health-care partners have been able to vaccinate many long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents, staff and essential caregivers, Toronto and Peel currently have largely unvaccinated populations. With uncertainty related to supply, it is unclear when the City and partners will be able to continue to vaccinate large portions of the population.
2. Experience of other jurisdictions with variants of concern: Learning from other jurisdictions shows variant growth can be exponential without significant public health measures in place. A loosening of public health measures runs the significant risk of leading to another potential lockdown. As we have seen in other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, additional measures and strong lockdowns have been required to curb the increase of variant of concern transmission.
3. Reopening schools safely: Keeping the current measures in place for a sufficient period after the reopening of schools allows local public health to mitigate the risk to students and staff as they return to in-person learning.
4. Public perception: In reviewing recent mobility data, only when the province-wide shutdown began on December 26, followed by the provincial Stay-at-Home Order and Emergency Declaration did public health officials see a significant decline in mobility of residents. Even in the absence of changes to public health measures, data has recently started to show an increase in mobility that could result in more contacts which, in turn, increases risk of COVID-19 transmission. Reopening in any degree influences public perception of risk and may give a false sense of security.
Read the full letter here.
3:20 pm The provincial NDP is tabling a bill that would ban residential evictions during the pandemic.
Ontario suspended eviction enforcement while the stay-at-home order is in effect but eviction hearings at the Landlord and Tenant Board are continuing.
However, as several regions are transitioning out of the stay-at-home order and back to the COVID-19 response framework, meaning enforcement of eviction orders can resume in those regions.
So far, 27 regions have transitioned back. Toronto, Peel, York and North Bay Parry Sound are scheduled to exit the stay-at-home order on February 22, but today public health officials in Toronto and Peel asked for a two- week extension.
People need help to stay in their homes NOW!— Suze Morrison (@SuzeMorrison) February 17, 2021
I will ask for the immediate passage of my bill for #NoCovidEvictions today
Doug Ford’s PCs need to pass this bill to save lives, help stop the spread and give folks the help and hope they need to get through this#Onpoli https://t.co/QXrcJkgmar
2:30 pm Toronto’s top doctor is asking the province to extend the stay-at-home order for two more weeks.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa told reporters today that fast-spreading COVID-19 variant cases are cause for concern and wants the current restrictions extended to March 9.
“I have never been as worried about the future as I am today,” she said. “A week ago, there were 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in Toronto. Today, we have 56. In fact, there are more than five times that number being confirmed in the labs right now.”
She added that 283 COVID-19 cases from Toronto that have screened positive as variants of concern. The variants are identified by a two-part lab test. The second part identifies the specific type of variant.
“Lab work is underway to confirm these findings and clarify these variants,” she said. “Today’s variant count is the tip of an iceberg.”
Earlier in the day, public health officials in Peel Region made a similar request to the province.
Premier Doug Ford said Toronto, Peel and York Region would transition out of the stay-at-home order and back to the colour-coded response framework on February 22.
De Villa said she co-wrote a letter with Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh asking the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams to delay assessing whether Toronto is ready to return to the COVID-19 framework .
De Villa said 54 of the confirmed variant cases are the B.1.1.7. variant (the UK variant) and two are the P.1 variant (Brazilian variant).
She noted that lockdown measures and stay-at-home orders have been effective in Toronto and elsewhere in the world, namely the UK, which has not yet outlined a plan to exit lockdown restrictions.
“As a public health physician, I have never been as concerned about the threat of COVID-19 to your health as I am now – not at any other point in the pandemic,” she said. “I am obligated to make it that clear.”
12:09 pm One person has died following an encampment fire in Orphans Green Park, near Adelaide East. Fire officials told CP24 that flames engulfed a makeshift structure around 6 am.
“The fire burned so fast that there wasn’t much the firefighters could do when they arrived,” city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said in a tweet. “Sadly one person was found deceased at the site.”
This morning I spoke to Toronto Fire’s Acting Chief Jessop about the encampment fire in Corktown. The fire burned so fast that there wasn’t much the firefighters could do when they arrived. Sadly one person was found deceased at the site.TFS will continue to investigate. #RIP— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) February 17, 2021
11:11 am Ontario reported 847 new cases of COVID-19 on February 17 after another day of lower than average testing numbers.
The province confirmed 904 cases on Tuesday with only 27,005 tests completed, and 964 on Monday with only 30,355 tests completed.
Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, said during a new conference yesterday that testing tends to be lower following weekends.
Today’s testing count was just 33,977 tests completed, marking a 2.5 per cent positivity rate.
So far, 489,484 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Ontario, including 9,107 in the past day. A total of 195,366 people have been fully vaccinated.
An additional 10 deaths have been reported on February 17, including four long-term care residents and two people between the ages of 40 and 59.
There are currently 10,985 active cases in the province, including 719 hospitalizations – down from yesterday’s count of 742. However, patients in intensive care have gone up from 292 yesterday to 298 today, including 211 patients on ventilators.
An additional 29 confirmed cases of the B117 variant have been discovered, bringing the provincial total to 338. There are also six confirmed cases of the South African B1351 variant.
To date, there have been 288,583 total cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, including 270,869 resolved – up 1,456 from the day before. There have been 6,729 deaths.
The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:
Toronto = 257
Peel = 170
York Region = 131
Ottawa = 53
Windsor-Essex County = 44
Durham Region = 30
City of Hamilton = 29
Simcoe Muskoka District = 26
Region of Waterloo = 18
Halton Region = 12
Brant County = 11
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 11
Niagara Region = 10
Thunder Bay District = 10
Peterborough = 6
Middlesex-London = 5