Coronavirus news in Toronto and Ontario for January 23.
3:47 pm A teenager in London-Middlesex was among three people reported to have died from COVID-19 in that region in the past 24 hours.
The teenager was a worker at a long-term care home. Global News reports the teen was a male “not in their early-teenage years,” but it’s not known if they were over or under 18.
All three deaths reported today by London-Middlesex Health Unit were associated with long-term care homes.
2:10 pm Spartan Bioscience said on Saturday that Health Canada has approved the Ottawa-based company’s rapid COVID-19 test.
The federal agency previously approved the test last May, but restricted use to research settings after finding problems with swabs used with the device.
“Spartan’s test is the first truly mobile, rapid PCR test for COVID-19 for the Canadian market,” the company said in a statement. “The Spartan COVID-19 System offers the speed and ease of use of a rapid test, while using the technology of lab-based COVID-19 testing solutions.”
The device will come in handy in remote communities and other settings with limited access to medical labs, Spartan said.
Health Canada has yet to issue an official statement on the approval.
12:35 pm Public health officials in Simcoe Muskoka have detected the highly contagious UK coronavirus variant in a long-term care home in Barrie.
Roberta Place declared an outbreak on January 8. As of January 22, 124 of 127 residents and 84 staff were positive for the virus and 29 people have died. Two essential visitors and three external partners have also tested positive.
“The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all,” the region’s Medical Officer of Health, Charles Gardner, said in a statement. “Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread.”
Officials conducted a two-part test on six samples to identify the variant, known as B117.
The first test confirmed “a high likelihood that there was a COVID-19 variant of concern.” The second part of the test involved genome sequencing.
“This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion,” officials said in a statement.
The coronavirus mutation was first identified in the UK last fall and studies have shown it is 56 per cent more transmissible.
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital has temporarily taken over management of the facility to bring the outbreak under control.
Simcoe Muskoka Public Health Unit is also stepping vaccinations of retirement homes in the region this weekend. All eligible residents and staff at Roberta Place have already been vaccinated via a mobile immunization clinic.
As of Thursday, the province had confirmed 15 cases of the UK COVID-19 variant.
Other COVID variants have been discovered in South Africa and Brazil.
10:35 am Ontario reported 2,359 new COVID-19 cases and 52 more deaths on January 23.
Of today’s deaths, 25 were residents of long-term care homes.
Today’s count is a slight drop over yesterday’s 2,662 cases. The seven-day rolling average for new cases – which experts consider a more accurate indication of virus spread – is 2,603, down from 3,218 a week ago.
Labs in the province completed more than 63,500 tests, pushing the positivity rate up to 4.5 per cent from 3.7 per cent yestrday.
“Locally, there are 708 new cases in Toronto, 422 in Peel, 220 in York Region, 107 in Hamilton and 101 in Ottawa,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
As of 8 pm last night, the province had administered 276,146 shots of COVID-19 vaccines.
Another 3,025 cases are now considered resolved.
10 am The province is expanding inspections of essential workplaces to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham this weekend.
More than 300 provincial offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, will visit big-box stores and other establishments, including restaurants and retail.
Last weekend, a blitz of 240 big-box stores in the GTHA found 76 contraventions of COVID restrictions – including a lack of physical distancing and mask violations. Overall, 31 per cent of these businesses were not adhering to public health requirements.
10 am An annual outdoor public art exhibition and design competition that usually kicks off on Family Day is being delayed.
The organizers of Winter Stations, which takes over Woodbine Beach each year, said the event might become “Spring Stations” depending on when the current stay-at-home order lifts.
The event will also include three temporary installations in the Distillery District and one at Kew Gardens. The artworks will then move to the beach.
The four winning installations were unveiled on Friday. Designers were asked to incorporate the theme of “refuge,” and reflect on the pandemic. Organizers also advised hopeful designers to anticipate a more socially distanced exhibition.
The following regions reported five or more new cases of COVID-19:
Toronto = 708
Peel Region = 442
York Region = 220
Hamilton = 107
Ottawa = 101
Windsor-Essex = 100
Niagara Region = 94
Simcoe Muskoka = 87
Waterloo = 86
Halton Region = 77
Durham Region = 68
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph = 61
Middlesex-London = 55
Eastern Ontario = 29
Thunder Bay = 21
Southwestern = 21
Lambton = 15
Huron Perth = 14
Sudbury = 12
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge = 11
Haldimand-Norfolk = 9
Brant County = 9
Chatham-Kent = 8
Peterborough = 6
Northwestern = 5