A roundup of coronavirus news in Ontario for February 19, 2021
4 pm People over age 80 are being bumped up into phase one of Ontario’s vaccination rollout plan.
Retired General Rick Hillier, who is leading up the provincial vaccination task force, told reporters at Queen’s Park today that group will start receiving shots by the middle of March.
“We’ll be reaching out to them in the next week to two weeks to tell them when their opportunity is going to becoming available, where they can go to book their appointments – either online or thorugh a phone line,” Hillier said.
He added people age 80 and older will receive a card in the mailing with all the information.
Ontario is experiencing a drought in vaccines due to production issues with manufacturers. Larger shipments are expected to resume by late March or early April.
On Wednesday, Hillier said Ontario received 155,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and will get 180,000 more next week.
A shipment of Moderna shots has been reduced from 90,000 to 47,000 he said. Those shots will go first to people needing second doses, he added.
Asked when people in their 30s, 40s and 50s would receive doses, Hillier said his ballpark estimate is “well into summer.”
2:58 pm Canada’s new travel restrictions kick in on Monday, February 22. All passengers arriving via Toronto Pearson International Airport must pre-book a three-night stay in a government-approved hotel while waiting mandatory COVID-19 test results.
Travellers must pre-pay for their hotel prior to boarding and can choose from four places to stay in Toronto:
The good news is the hotel rates are reportedly lower than the total cost Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quoted: upwards of $2,000.
1:30 pm The city of Toronto is taking the carpenter behind the Tiny Shelters project to court.
On February 12, the city filed an injunction application in Ontario Superior Court to stop Khaleel Seivwright from building wooden structures to house homeless people in city parks.
In a press release, the city alleges Seivwright is “building unsafe wooden structures and illegally depositing them on City property, including in parks and on City rights-of-way.”
The injunction application seeks to “permanently” restrain Seivwright “from placing and/or relocating structures on City-owned land or otherwise creating a nuisance or interfering with the City’s rights as owner and occupier of its land.”
The city, which sent the carpenter a written warning letter last fall, asserts the wooden structures are not legal dwellings and bylaws prohibit camping and placing tents or structures on city property.
The court application notes Seivwright has started a GoFundMe campaign to support the project.
“The respondent has indicated in public and private statements his intention to continue to maintain and relocate structures on City-owned land without the City’s permission,” the document states.
The city has said the structures pose a safety risk. One person died in a Corktown encampment fire involving a structure on February 17.
On February 11, a day before the city filed the injunction application, Seivwright posted an update on his GoFundMe page that said he has stopped building Tiny Shelters.
“I’m makin this post to let you all know that we have stopped building Tiny Shelters but will continue to do maintenance and relocating of shelters as people staying outside get into housing,” he said.
“I will be turning off the GoFundMe donation function but the page will still be operating and we will be keeping everyone updated with our efforts going forward,” he added.
The GoFundMe campaign has raised over $222,000.
1:15 pm Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay Parry Sound will officially remain under the stay-at-home order for two more weeks, the province announced on Friday.
The move means the regions will remain under strict lockdown until at least March 8. The Ford government said the decision is based on key public health indicators and advice from local medical officers of health, who had asked for the extension.
“While the Peel and Toronto regions have seen a reduction in COVID-19 transmission from the period of February 8 to 17, 2021, rates still remain too high in the regions, with case rates of 83.4 cases per 100,000 people for Peel and 67.9 cases per 100,000 people for Toronto, both well above the provincial average,” the province said in a statement.
“During this same period of time, North Bay Parry Sound District has also seen its case rate increase by 11.5 per cent to 14.6 cases per 100,000 people. Variants of concern also remain a serious risk to community transmission and health system capacity.”
York Region will transition back to the colour-coded COVID-19 response framework just after midnight on Monday, February 22.
The province said York has seen “a general improvement in trends of key indicators” and will enter the Red-Control level as has been requested by politicians in the region.
Premier Doug Ford previously announced Toronto, Peel and York would transition back to the COVID-19 response framework on February 22, but that health officials would assess the situation beforehand.
On February 17, the top public health doctors in Toronto and Peel wrote a letter to the Ford government requesting the cities remain under the stay-at-home order that took effect on January 14 until at least March 9.
Also on Monday, Lambton Public Health will move from the Orange-Restrict level to the Red-Control level “as a result worsening public health trends in the region over the past week.”
More to come
11:30 am Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce today at 2 pm whether Toronto, Peel, York and North Bay Parry Sound will transition back to the colour-coded COVID-19 reopening framework.
The province previously scheduled the transition for February 22, but earlier this week public health officials in Toronto and Peel asked to remain under the stay-at-home order for two more weeks due to the threat of fast-spreading COVID-19 variants.
York Region has asked to transition to the red zone of the reopening framework.
Ford has said he would listen to advice from local officials before making the decision.
11:30 am Ontario reported more than 1,000 new cases for a second straight day on February 19.
There were 1,150 new infections detected in the past day and another 47 people have died, including 18 long-term care home residents.
“Locally, there are 376 new cases in Toronto, 264 in Peel and 108 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
As of 8 pm last night, Ontario had administered 518,834 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Labs in the province completed more than 65,300 tests in the past day, pushing the positivity rate down to 2.1 per cent.
The seven-day rolling average for new cases is now 1,026, down from 1,180 this time last week.
Hospitalizations continue to trend downward. There are 689 patients in Ontario hospitals, down by 69 from yesterday. There are 269 people in intensive care, with 190 on ventilators.
Variant cases continue to climb. There are 395 confirmed variant cases in the province, up by 39. Officials in Toronto have said hundreds of cases have screened positive for variants and genome sequencing is being undertaken to determine the specific strains.
The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:
Toronto = 376
Peel Region = 264
York Region = 108
Ottawa = 73
City of Hamilton = 43
Durham Region = 41
Region of Waterloo = 41
Halton Region = 37
Simcoe Muskoka = 23
Windsor-Essex = 22
Niagara Region = 17
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 17
Thunder Bay = 15
Eastern Ontario = 12
Lambton = 7
Haldimand-Norfolk = 6
Southwestern = 6
Porcupine = 6
Middlesex-London = 5