Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a press conference for ET at 2 p.m.
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Ontario’s chief medical officer recommends to the cabinet that Toronto, the Peel region and the North Bay-Barry Sound be under current shelter, while the York region switches to Ontario’s color-coded COVID-19 control system, two sources told CBC News.
The Cabinet met this morning to discuss the matter, and an announcement is expected during Prime Minister Doug Ford’s press conference on ET at 2 p.m.
The province said it planned to withdraw the order earlier this month and move Toronto, the Peel region, the York region and the North Bay to its integrated epidemic control system next week.
But top doctors for the Toronto and Peel companies have asked that it be delayed until at least March 9 because there are different strains of the virus in their communities.
Ford pointed out Thursday that the state may grant the request made by Toronto and Peel, which recorded 376 and 264 Covid-19 cases in today’s update from the Ministry of Health.
A further 108 cases have been reported in the York region.
Public health units that saw double-digit increases:
- Ottawa: 73
- Hamilton: 43
- Durham Region: 41
- Waterloo Region: 41
- Halton Region: 37
- Simko Muscoca: 23
- Windsor-Essex: 22
- Niagara Region: 17
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 17
- Thunder Bay: 15
- East Ontario: 12
(Note: All figures used in this story are found on or near the COVID-19 Dashboard of the Ministry of Health Daily epidemiological summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from that reported by the local public health unit, as local units report statistics at different times.)
Ontario’s laboratory network completed 65,372 tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, and recorded a positive test rate of 2.1 percent, the lowest since October 16 last year.
The number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals dropped to 689, up from 758 the previous day, the lowest since the beginning of December. Of them, 269 are being treated in intensive care and 190 need ventilators to breathe, the health ministry said.
A further 47 people have died with COVID-19, according to the public health department, which has an official death toll of 6,820.
Vaccine timeline updated
The province administered 16,967 doses of vaccines yesterday, the highest in any given day since the start of the immunization campaign. A total of 217,715 people in Ontario have received both doses of a single vaccine and have been fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, as the province expands its COVID-19 immunization efforts, Ontario residents aged 80 and over will be contacted about vaccination appointments in the coming weeks.
While the online booking system and service desk for appointments are still in development, provincial officials say primary care physicians can begin contacting seniors under that age.
Most appointments for those residents will begin in March, but officials say some public health departments may make progress soon after completing vaccinations for high-priority individuals, including long-term care residents.
The province says 157,000 doses of Pfizer-Bioendech vaccine are due this week, and its weekly supply from the company is expected to be between 173,000 and 186,000 doses by the end of March.
Officials say the size of the modern vaccine for next week will be 47,400, but supply is expected to increase in March.
The increase in supply coincides with the expansion of Ontario’s vaccine roll, targeting seniors and all tribal elders in the group, 80 and over.
Analysts to visit some small businesses
This morning, Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said he was sending inspectors to visit small businesses that will reopen this month in an effort to comply with the infection orders.
McNaughton said early visits will focus on education on safety rules, and that analysts will take a “firm approach” to follow-up visits.
He said small businesses have felt the impact of the epidemic, but many do not have the evidence to quickly adapt to new safety regulations.
The initiative, which starts next week, will include business categories, including retail stores, gyms and personal services in regions that will reopen in the gray, red and orange zones under the framework of provincial regulations.
Analysts will focus on businesses in Wellington-Dufferin Guelph, Durham and eastern Ontario, where businesses reopened this week with various levels of restrictions.
The ministry said business owners will also get a webinar and information hotline in line with the new rules.
The announcement comes as the federal government says it will expand coverage for two to four weeks under the Canada Recovery Disease Benefit.