COVID-19: Ottawa sending mobile health units to GTA; Trudeau tells Canadians to cancel their vacations

A roundup of coronavirus news for January 22, 2021


Top COVID-19 stories and news

Toronto businesses form co-ops to compete with Amazon

Is COVID-19 transmission risk higher in cold weather?

The updated list of Ontario lockdown restrictions

The full list of rules for Ontario’s stay-at-home order


Canada averaging 149 COVID-19 deaths per day: Tam

1 pm Here are the latest COVID-19 number for all of Canada. This afternoon, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Teresa Tam reported:

  • Canada has had more than 731,000 confirmed cases to date
  • A total of 18,622 people have died
  • There are more than 67,000 active cases nation wide
  • The national average for daily new cases is 6,080
  • The daily average for hospital admissions is 4,650
  • There are 870 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units
  • An average of 149 people die each day

Tam also said Canada has confirmed 31 cases of the UK coronavirus variant known as B117 and three cases of the South African variant known as B1357.

She also provided an update on vaccine safety.

As of January 15, there have been 90 reports of adverse events following vaccinations in Canada.

“These include any health problems that occurs following immunization but is not necessarily caused by the vaccine,” she said, adding that one in 22,000 doses distributed led to a serious concern, such as a severe allergic reaction.

“To date, no unexpected vaccine safety issues have been identified,” Tam added.


Ottawa to deploy mobile health units to GTA

11:52 am Ottawa is sending two mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area to help hospitals struggling with high volumes of COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.

“This will provide up to 200 additional hospital beds and free up space for people who need ICU care,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today. “Each of the units can also provide vital medical equipment and supplies.”

Due to surging infection rates, some hospitals in Toronto have started reaching ICU capacity. Doctors have been redirecting COVID-19 patients to other jurisdictions, such as Peterborough, Oshawa and Kingston.


Trudeau to Canadians: Cancel your vacations

11:40 am During Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he discussed border and travel at a meeting with the premiers.

Today, he told Canadians not to travel – abroad or within Canada.

“My message to Canadians remains clear: No one should be taking a vacation abroad right now,” he said during a press briefing in Ottawa. “If you’ve got one planned, cancel it. And don’t book a trip for spring break. It’s obvious we should avoid trips south and out of the country.”

“Remember, across the country people are being told to stay home. So if you were thinking of traveling across the country for spring break, now is not the time. We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months.”

The prime minister said he discussed potential further measures to discourage people from travelling for non-essential reasons during the pandemic.

“We could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada at any given moment without warning,” he said.

There are no rules prohibiting Canadians from travelling abroad during the pandemic.

As of January 7, the federal government requires air travellers five years of age or older to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding international flights bound for Canada.


Ontario reports less than 3,000 new cases for fifth straight day

11: 05 am Ontario reported 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 on January 22, the fifth consecutive day of daily cases under 3,000.

The province saw 2,632 new cases on Thursday, 2,655 on Wednesday and 1,913 on Tuesday. The seven-day rolling average dropped again to 2,703.

Labs completed 71,750 tests in the past 24 hours, marking a 3.7 per cent positivity rate.

The province administered 264,985 doses of the vaccine and has completed 49,292 vaccinations. A total of 11,168 vaccinations were administered in the past day.

In order to vaccinate everyone who can be vaccinated by the end of September, the province would have to administer 91,080 doses per day.

There have been 87 deaths in the past 24 hours, including 43 among long-term care residents and one person between the ages of 40 and 59.

There are 779 new cases in Toronto, 542 in Peel, 228 in York Region, 128 in Waterloo and 118 in Windsor-Essex County.

Confirmed active cases have continued to drop, reaching 25,263 as of January 22. Hospitalizations dropped as well to 1,512, with intensive care patients at 383.

To date, there have been 250,226 total cases of COVID-19, including 219,262 resolved – up 3,375 from the day before. There have been 5,701 deaths to date.


Canada Post: 27 employees test positive in Mississauga

10:15 am In the past 48 hours, 27 Canada Post employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the crown corporation’s Dixie Road facility.

In a statement to NOW, spokesperson Phil Legault said Canada Post is undertaking “proactive onsite rapid testing.”

The employees were either asymptomatic or “did not believe they were exhibiting symptoms after conducting the mandatory self-screening,” he said.

A total of 149 employees at the Mississauga facility have tested positive between January 1-21.

Legault added that Canada Post has extended voluntary testing beyond the affected shift to employees working other shifts.

“We are seeing good cooperation from employees and union representatives and plan to continue into next week with the ongoing guidance and support of [Peel Public Health],” he added.

In the past 10 months, Canada Post has confirmed just over 1,000 positive cases across 4,100 facilities, including 21 processing plants, 477 letter carrier depots and 3,700 corporate post offices.

Over three quarters of those employees have since been cleared to return to work.

“What public health officials tell us is that, overwhelmingly the cases among employees are due to community transmission,” Legault said. “Workplace transmission is believed to have occurred in less than two per cent of the cases.”


Toronto traffic at lowest level since May: city data

9:30 am At the request of Mayor John Tory, the city has released data showing vehicle traffic levels are the lowest since Stage 1 opening in May and June.

“But is still higher than conditions observed during the initial lockdown last spring,” the city said in a press release. “Traffic conditions in the first two days since additional restrictions were imposed by the Province (which came into effect on January 14, 2021) were similar to the days immediately preceding this period.”

Public health officials are using mobility data from cellphones and traffic data to gauge the success of recent COVID-19 lockdown measures. The province has told people to stay at home and go out only for essential reasons amid surging infection rates.

Toronto staff use three key traffic monitoring measures, including Travel Time Index to monitor traffic congestion, Watch Your Speed signs to anticipate traffic volume and traffic counting technology that count cars and pedestrians.

During the first lockdown last spring, car volumes dropped to 68 per cent of baseline volumes during afternoon rush hour (5-6 pm) and then rose to 87 per cent in the early fall. That number has dropped to 73 per cent of normal since the province introduced new lockdown measures, a stay-at-home order and a state of emergency.

During the morning rush hour (8-9 am), which is more directly impacted by school closures, car volumes plummeted to 44 per cent of normal conditions last spring, then rose 80 per cent in the early fall. That number has since dropped again to 52 per cent of normal.

Traffic counting technology placed at select downtown intersections to also shows that daily car traffic dropped to 44 per cent of typical volumes during the first lockdown, rose to 73 per cent by the fall, and dropped again to 63 per cent recently.

Meanwhile, pedestrian traffic dropped to 17 per cent of typical volume since the spring lockdown and then climbed to 30 per cent in the fall and dropped again to to 21 per cent since the new lockdown orders, city data shows.


New COVID-19 cases in Ontario on January 22

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

Toronto = 779

Peel = 542

York Region = 228

Region of Waterloo = 128

Windsor-Essex County = 118

Halton Region = 102

Niagara Region = 95

Durham Region = 80

City of Hamilton = 78

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 77

Ottawa = 75

Simcoe Muskoka District = 71

Middlesex-London = 65

Thunder Bay District = 58

Eastern Ontario = 37

Huron Perth = 26

Southwestern = 19

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District = 16

Sudbury & Districts = 13

Chatham-Kent = 11

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington = 7

Haldimand-Norfolk = 7

Brant County = 6

Grey Bruce = 6

Lambton = 6


COVID updates for January 21, 2021

Popular Etobicoke bakery closes after staff test positive

6:30 pm SanRemo Bakery in Etobicoke has announce a two-week closure after some staffers in the back baking department tested positive for COVID-19.

In an Instagram post, the family-run Italian bakery’s owners said employees do not work when the store is open and did not interact with customers.

“The last employee who tested positive who worked in the back area worked on Saturday, January 16th and adhered to all mask and COVID-19 protocols,” they said in a statement.

SanRemo plans to reopen on February 6.

Read the full story here


SickKids: Ontario should close schools as a “last resort”

5:26 pm Experts at SickKids hospital strongly recommend a return to in-person learning in updated COVID-19 guidelines for Ontario schools.

In the document, the hospital notes that closing schools should be a “last resort” considering the “significant negative impact” impacts school closures had on children and youth during last year’s lockdowns.

Public health measures including lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, self-isolation and school closures have had significant adverse consequences for children and youth in particular, the report states.

Read the full story here


COVID variant identified in Barrie long-term care home

4:13 pm Lab testing has identified a COVID-19 mutation from six specimens from long-term care home in Barrie, public health officials in Simcoe Muskoka said on Thursday.

Officials have not yet identified the particular strain.

The home, Roberta Place, declared an outbreak on January 8 and since then has experienced exponential growth in new cases. A mobile vaccine clinic visited the home last weekend.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, called the interim test results identifying the liklihood of a variant “extremely concerning.”

“The variant strain testing is a two-part test, and at this time, the first test which looks for a particular 501 mutation is positive and indicates a very high probability that they are of a variant strain of concern,” public heath officials said in a statement. “The second part of the test is a whole genome sequencing test to determine the exact COVID-19 strain. The results are expected in the next three to four days.”

To date, Ontario has confirmed 15 cases of the highly transmissible UK coronavirus strain.


COVID-19 spread starting to decline in Toronto: de Villa

3:46 pm Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said today that “we have a slight advantage over the virus.”

After weeks of lockdown measures, the city’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has dropped from 772 on Monday to 730 today.

Additionally, the reproductive number – or R number – has dropped below 1 to 0.86. This means that overall each case results in less than one additional new infection.

However, de Villa cautioned that it’s too early to make a call that the virus is in decline

“We need to see a consistent pattern of improving indicators before we call it a trend with any kind of confidence,” she said. “It is very early going and a very delicate balance. The tide has not turned.”


Over two-thirds of Toronto’s cases are in racialized people: de Villa

3:37 pm As of November 30, 79 per cent of Toronto’s reported COVID-19 cases were in people who identified as coming from a racialized group and 49 per cent of cases were among people living in lower-income households, Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said today.

De Villa provided an update on race-based COVID-19 data collected by Toronto Public Health that showed a “distinct change” in infection rates last fall.

South Asian and Indo-Caribbean Torontonians now have the highest case rates of all ethno-racial groups in the city at 27 per cent of cases despite comprising 13 per cent of the population, she said.

They are 3.8 times more likely to become infected with the virus compred with the rest of population.

“Racialized groups are also over-represented in hospitalizations,” de Villa said, adding that 71 per cent of COVID patients in Toronto identify as part of a racialized group.

“This overrepresentation is consistent wit the higher overall case rates in these groups. It does not suggest racialized groups are more likely to become hospitalized if infected,” she said.

People earning less than $30,000 per year are 1.9 times as likely to have a COVID-19 case and 2.7 times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID compared with rest of population, according to Toronto Public Health data.

De Villa concluded the virus “is imposing real, and disproportionate burdens on racialized communities and lower income groups.

“It is important to acknowledge how people’s living and working conditions are contributing to these inequities,” she added.

De Villa said part of the problem is lower-income and racialized people often work lower-wage frontline jobs and do not get paid if they call in sick.

“This is a significant barrier to our pandemic management efforts and reinforces the need for effective income supports for working people suffering from COVID-19, in particular paid sick days,” she said.


Toronto reports 986 new COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths

3:20 pm Today, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa reported 986 new cases of COVID in the city. There are now 474 patients in Toronto hospitals, including 116 in intensive care units. Of the ICU patients, 74 are on ventilators.

In the past day, 10 more people have died.

Another 949 cases are considered resolved. There are a total of 938 confirmed active cases of the virus in the city.


Toronto’s COVID self-isolation centres to expand

3:05 pm The province is opening new COVID-19 self-isolation centres in Oshawa and Brampton and expanding two existing centres in Toronto.

The centres help people living in crowded households self-isolate when they test positive for COVID-19. The centres are part of a previously announced provincial government plan to focus pandemic supports on lower-income neighbourhoods where people are at a higher-risk of virus transmission.

“We know that some communities have been more affected by COVID-19 than others, and many people face barriers to finding a safe place to self-isolate in order to keep their families and communities safe,” said Steve Clark, municipal affairs and housing minister, in a statement. “Isolation centres will provide these people with the supports they need while they are self-isolating.”

Under the province’s high-priority plan, the province plans to create up to 1,525 additional beds, including 125 beds in Durham, up to 840 beds in Peel, up to 280 beds in Toronto and up to 280 beds in York.


Ontario reports 2,632 new COVID-19 cases

11: 15 am Ontario reported 2,632 new cases of COVID-19 and 46 new deaths on January 21, the fourth consecutive day of daily case counts under 3,000.

The province saw 2,655 new cases on Wednesday, 1,913 on Tuesday and 2,578 on Monday. The rolling seven-day average has been on the decline since January 12, reaching 2,751 today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter that labs completed nearly 70,300 tests in the past day, a big increase over the past three consecutive days of testing numbers below 60,000. The positivity rate is now 3.7 per cent.

Ontario has administered 253,817 total doses of the vaccine as of January 21 and have completed 40,225 vaccinations so far.

“Locally, there are 897 new cases in Toronto, 412 in Peel, 245 in York Region, 162 in Ottawa and 118 in Waterloo,” Elliott said.

She said 102 cases were added to today’s case count due to a now-resolved technical issue at Toronto Public Health.

There are currently 26,063 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario.

Active cases have been trending downward since January 11. Hospitalizations and intensive care patients have both dropped from the day before, with 1,533 patients hospitalized and 388 of those patients in intensive care.

Long-term care residents accounted for 33 of the deaths reported today, along with two deaths between the ages of 40 and 59.

To date, there have been 247,564 total cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, including 215,887 resolved – up 2,990 from the day before. There have been 5,614 deaths.


Samuel Engelking

One in six small businesses at risk of closing: CFIB

10 am One in six Canadian small business owners are considering closing permanently, according to industry estimates.

On Thursday, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) reported about 181,000 are “seriously” mulling over shutting down, according to a survey of members conducted last week.

The number is up from last summer when one in seven were considering permanent closure. The CFIB says the forecast means 2.4 million jobs could be affected.

The organization says 58,000 businesses shut down 2020 and one in five are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic.


New COVID-19 cases in Ontario on January 21

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

Toronto = 897*

Peel = 412

York Region = 245

Ottawa = 162

Region of Waterloo = 118

Durham Region = 92

Windsor-Essex County = 92

Niagara Region = 90

Middlesex-London = 76

Simcoe Muskoka District = 70

City of Hamilton = 69

Halton Region = 52

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 49

Lambton = 45

Eastern Ontario = 32

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District = 31

Southwestern = 19

Huron Perth = 18

Brant County = 13

Sudbury & Districts = 9

Haldimand-Norfolk = 7

Chatham-Kent = 6

Peterborough = 6

Thunder Bay District = 5

Algoma = 5

*102 cases have been added from a previous technical issue

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