A roundup of coronavirus news in Ontario for February 26
5:05 pm The province has activated the “emergency brake” in Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka.
The two regions are moving into the Grey-Lockdown level of the COVID-19 response framework to “immediately interrupt transmission and contain community spread,” the Ford government said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
The moves, which take effect at 12:01 am on March, were undertaken in consultation with local public health officials due to “a rapid worsening in key public health indicators, as well as a high presence of variants in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit that continue to increase – the highest in the province,” the government said.
As of February 23, there have been 170 confirmed cases of fast-spreading variants of concern in Simcoe Muskoka.
Here is a list of regions moving around in the colour-coded framework on March 1:
3:15 pm Public Health officials in York Region said on Friday that 53 COVID-19 cases have been linked to a workplace outbreak HVAC systems company in Vaughan.
Officials are investigating the outbreak at Mobile Climate Control, which is not open to the public and so the risk is considered low to residents.
The outbreak was declared on February 3 and includes 35 cases identified in the city of Toronto. Eleven of the cases are from York, six are from Peel and one is from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.
“York Region Public Health conducted an onsite inspection on February 8, 2021 and continues to work with the employer to identify additional cases and identify close contacts associated with the confirmed cases,” a statement reads.
“At this time, no COVID-19 mutations or variants of concern have been identified related to this workplace outbreak.”
York Region Public Health has issued a Public Notice for a #COVID19 workplace outbreak at Mobile Climate Control in the City of Vaughan where 53 cases have been identified. The workplace is not open to the public and risk is considered low to residents. https://t.co/z71XTu3axs pic.twitter.com/VOphE9LLrh— York Region (@YorkRegionGovt) February 26, 2021
11 am Ontario reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 on February 26, the third consecutive daily increase over 1,000 in the province.
The province detected 1,138 new cases on Thursday, 1,054 on Wednesday and 975 on Tuesday. The seven-day rolling average has been steadily increasing for almost a week straight, reaching 1,114 on Friday.
The daily death toll is back up over the 20 mark once again, with 28 additional deaths reported today, including two people between the ages of 40 and 59.
Ontario completed 64,049 tests in the past 24 hours, marking a two per cent positivity rate.
With 21,805 additional doses of the vaccine administered in the past 24 hours, a total of 258,014 people have been fully vaccinated in the province.
Active cases have increased for the second consecutive day, increasing to 10,294. There are 683 people currently hospitalized and and 284 patients in intensive care. An additional 11 of those patients are on ventilators, bringing the total to 193.
There have been 298,569 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario to date and 6,944 deaths.
During a data modelling presentation at Queen’s Park on Thursday, public health officials said infection rates were levelling off or rising again in some regions after lockdown measures sent case rates on a downward trend.
With fast-spreading variant cases multiplying at a substantial rate, officials warned Ontario has a “minefield” ahead and will need to carefully monitor new cases in order for this summer to be more open than last summer.
10:30 am Health Canada has also approved Covishield, the version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine produced in India by the Serum Institute of India.
Verity Pharmaceuticals in sponsoring the use of the vaccine in Canada.
“The results of this evaluation determined that the two products were sufficiently similar that the efficacy, immunogenicity and safety of Covishield could be inferred from the non-clinical and clinical studies from the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Health Canada said in its regulatory approval.
To date, Health Canada has authorized four COVID-19 vaccines.
10:15 am Restaurants and bars in Toronto can start applying for this year’s CafeTO, the sidewalk and curb-lane patio program.
The program helped around 900 establishments weather pandemic restrictions last summer and the city is hopeful more will sign up this year.
CafeTO is expected to launch in May, two months earlier than last year, pending the easing of current lockdown restrictions on restaurants in Toronto.
Ontario has lifted restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining in other parts of the province in recent weeks. Toronto, Peel and North Bay Parry Sound will remain under the stay-at-home order until at least March 8.
9:55 am Music venue The Orbit Room has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover debts amassing during the pandemic, its owner says.
Last July, the 26-year-old College Street club’s co-founder and owner Tim Notter said he was shutting down that location and looking for a new space.
Now, he’s looking to cover debt and has set a $15,000 goal on a GoFundMe page.
“I wasn’t too worried about how I was going to pay all the outstanding debt the club carried at the time even though lock down meant losing 100% of our working capital,” he wrote. “I couldn’t have been more wrong. 3 months have now turned into 11 with no end in sight.”
Notter says he doesn’t expect live music to return in Toronto until 2022. He adds that he applied for government loans and grants but hasn’t received financial aid “from any level of government.”
In order to reopen eventually, he says “some old business needs to be taken care of.”
So far, the crowdfunding push has raised close to $20,000.
9:45 am Federal regulators have approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca for use in people 18 or older.
Health Canada, which began assessing the vaccine from the pharmaceutical company and Oxford University last fall, announced the approval on Friday.
The vaccine’s efficacy is estimated to be 62.1 per cent, Health Canada said in its decision. “Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants,” it added.
There have been concerns in other countries around this vaccine’s efficacy in people age 65 and older. That issue is expected to be addressed during a technical briefing at 10 am.
The vaccine is a two-dose vaccine. The second is given four to 12 weeks after first. Efficacy increases with longer dosing intervals, studies have shown.
Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:
Toronto = 362
Peel = 274
York Region = 104
Region of Waterloo = 69
City of Hamilton = 64
Ottawa = 52
Thunder Bay District = 42
Durham Region = 42
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 35
Halton Region = 32
Windsor-Essex County = 31
Simcoe Muskoka District = 25
Niagara Region = 19
Brant County = 17
Eastern Ontario = 11
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge = 10
Southwestern = 9
Renfrew County and District = 10
Lambton = 6
Porcupine = 5
Sudbury & Districts = 5
Haldimand-Norfolk = 5