COVID-19: Singh urges Ottawa to use Emergencies Act in Ontario; Province expands AstraZeneca eligibility to 40+

The testing positivity rate has climbed to an all-time high as hospitalizations pass the 2,200 mark

Top COVID-19 stories and news

Here’s the list of people eligible for vaccines in Phase 2

Here are the rules for Ontario’s new stay-at-home-order

Singh asks Trudeau to use the Emergencies Act in Ontario

4:10 pm Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use the federal Emergencies Act in Ontario.

In a letter addressed to Trudeau and posted on Twitter, Singh said Ottawa’s intervention could help ensure vaccinations are targeted to hot spots and allow for essential workers to take paid sick days.

“Paid sick days and paid vaccination leave are urgently needed,” he wrote. “We have spoken many times of the need to make changes to the federal sickness benefit to make it more accessible, more flexible and to offer full pay. For some workers, this is their only option.”

He added one solution could be reimbursing employers who begin to offer paid sick time.

Singh’s letter comes after Premier Doug Ford’s government voted down a series of opposition NDP motions at Queen’s Park aimed at helping essential workers, including a paid sick leave program.

Ford has resisted calls from doctors and municipal leaders, including Mayor John Tory, to enact a provincial sick leave program, arguing Ottawa’s federal sick leave benefit is sufficient.

Outdoor recreational activities are “lower risk, not no risk”: de Villa

3 pm Since Premier Doug Ford announced outdoor recreational amenities, such as basketball and tennis courts, are being closed under the stay-at-home order, many people have wondered why – especially since medical experts have said virus transmission risk is lower outdoors.

Outdoor activity is good for both physical and mental health, so why close these amenities? Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa was asked today for her opinion on the Ford government’s decision to shut down outdoor recreational activities.

“I’m 100 per cent supportive of trying to get people the opportunities to be outside,” she said. “We know that outside is safer for sure. It is lower risk but it’s not no risk. We know that as people get close to each other, this is how COVID-19 spreads. With certain activities, outdoor recreational activities, we know that there’s a greater chance as people interact closely with each other.

“Certainly, there are some activities that are lower risk,” she added. “Those [activities] that allow the maintenance of distance are certainly lower risk than those that require more up-close interaction between people. At the end of the day, we’re encouraging people to be in outdoor space, to get some sunshine and fresh air and physical activity for sure, but recognize that low risk doesn’t mean no risk.”

She added that Torontonians should maintain distance from people they do not live with and wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible outdoors.

City staff are in the process of closing amenities across more than 1,500 parks in Toronto. The city’s General Manager of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg said it will take staff approximately one week to close all of the amenities and post signage.

De Villa calls on province to bring in paid sick days for essential workers

2:45 pm Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said targeted vaccinations in hot spots and paid sick leave for essential workers will help turn back rapid growth COVID-19 cases in the city.

Community-driven mobile clinics over the weekend gave close to 5,500 vaccinations over the weekend, she added.

De Villa quoted provincial public health advisors who said last week during a data modelling presentation that 59 vaccinations on a per capita basis are needed to prevent one new case of covid-19, but 36 targeted vaccinations in hot spots will prevent a new case of COVID-19.

“We also need provisions to allow people to stay apart of they’re ill,” she said during a press briefing at city hall. “This includes paid sick days even on a temporary/emergency basis so people can afford to stay home if they’re sick. The science supports this.”

De Villa said a province-wide strategy is needed to end the third wave, including the capacity to swiftly act to ensure essential workplaces are safe and aren’t facilitating spread. She said there is “significant ongoing discussion” in the health sector to provide province with advice on what more can be done to turn back surging transmission rates.

Toronto Public Health confirmed 1,477 new cases in the past day. There are 65 new hospitalizations, bringing the total to 881. There are 184 patients in intensive care units in Toronto and six more people have died.

Mayor John Tory also said 29.2 per cent of adults in Toronto have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Ontario reports 4,447 new cases as hospitalizations pass 2,200

11:05 am Ontario reported 4,447 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths on April 19.

Another 95 people were admitted to hospital in the past day, bringing the total number of COVID-19 patients in the province to 2,202. Of those, there are 755 patients in intensive care units, including 516 on ventilators. There were 619 ICU patients in Ontario hospitals last Monday.

The seven-day average for new infections is 4,348, up from 3,782 last Monday but lower than Friday’s all-time high of 4,812. Public health officials reported 4,250 cases on Sunday.

Labs in the province completed more than 53,700 tests in the past 24 hours. The positivity rate climbed to 10.5 per cent, the highest it has reached since the pandemic began. The number of active cases in the province has also hit a record-high 42,863.

“Locally, there are 1,299 new cases in Toronto, 926 in Peel, 577 in York Region, 233 in Ottawa and 227 in Hamilton,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

Of today’s deaths, one person was between age 20 and 39 and five were between ages 40 and 59. To date, the virus has killed 7,735 people in the province.

Labs have also confirmed another 2,467 cases of the fast-spreading B117 variant, now the dominant strain of the virus in the province.

As of 8 pm last night, the province had administered 3,904,778 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including more than 900,000 in Toronto.

Ontario lowers age of eligibility for AstraZeneca vaccine to 40 and up

11 am Ontario is lowering the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to 40 and up starting on April 20.

The province has been under pressure to expand vaccination as COVID-19 variants surge in the province, sending intensive care unit admissions to record highs.

Ontario previously made AstraZeneca vavailable only to adults aged 55 and older in line with advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). The advice came in response to reports of younger people experiencing rare blood clots. There have been two cases of rare blood clots developing in patients who have received the shot in Canada.

“We continue to be actively engaged with Health Canada on updated AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safety,” provincial officials said in a news release. “Last week, based on the review of available data from Europe and United Kingdom, Health Canada announced that it was not restricting the use of AstraZeneca vaccine in any specific populations at this time.”

Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said provinces “are free to use AstraZeneca in any age population over 18 as per Health Canada’s license for use in Canada.”

“All COVID-19 vaccines available in Ontario have been shown to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. Adverse reactions are extremely rare,” Ontario officials said. “We strongly recommend that everyone book their appointment as soon as they are eligible.”

There are around 1,400 pharmacies and doctors’ offices in the province administering the AstraZeneca vaccine.

New COVID-19 cases in Ontario on April 19

The following regions reported five or more new COVID-19 cases:

Toronto = 1,299

Peel Region = 926

York Region = 577

Ottawa = 233

Durham Region = 205

Niagara Region = 203

Hamilton = 227

Halton Region = 169

Simcoe Muskoka = 114

Region of Waterloo = 79

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 70

Middlesex-London = 56

Windsor-Essex = 39

Brant County = 39

Eastern Ontario = 32

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge = 28

Haldimand-Norfolk = 21

Peterborough = 16

Porcupine = 12

Leeds, Grenville & Lanark = 12

Sudbury & Districts = 11

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington = 11

Renfrew County = 11

Southwestern = 10

Chatham-Kent = 9

Grey Bruce = 9

Hastings Prince Edward = 7

Lambton = 5

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