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Peel Region should hold off from easing coronavirus restrictions for at least 2 weeks, top doctor says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Peel Region’s top doctor is asking the provincial government to keep the region in lockdown for at least two more weeks to assess the impact of the return of in-person learning and the emergence of highly-contagious COVID-19 variants in the region.

Over the last week, variants of concern have grown from only five cases to 45 in Peel Region. There are currently at least 40 lab-confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which first originated in the United Kingdom, and five cases of the B.1.351 variant, which was first found in South Africa.

In addition, there are over 200 more cases in Peel that have screened positive for a variant of concern as of Wednesday. These cases are undergoing genomic sequencing to confirm and identify which variant they are.

Peel Region, along with Toronto, York Region and North Bay Parry Sound, are slated to re-enter the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework as early as Feb. 22.

But Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh recommends holding off from going back into the framework for at least another 14 days to monitor trends of the variants and transmission within schools.

“Can we reassess our anticipated return to the provincial framework? Holding the status quo for just one incubation period, 14 days, will allow us to better see where the variant trends go and review any impact that school reopening might have on community contacts and transmission,” he said during a media briefing in Brampton Wednesday morning.

Loh argues that delaying the region’s move into the framework is needed to avoid a surge in cases and another lockdown down the road.

“I know it’s not news that people want to hear, but I think just holding on for a couple more weeks will allow us to really figure out what the picture is to try to get things under control, to try to make sure that the school reopening goes off without a hitch,” he said.

On Wednesday, 170 new COVID-19 cases were logged in Peel, up from 154 a day ago, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

Peel Region’s testing positivity rate is currently 7.7 per cent compared to 7.9 a week ago and the weekly incidence rate fell to 137.2 per 100,000 cases compared to 155 last week.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown echoes Loh’s remarks and says the city has to be “diligent” as variants of concern continue to surface across the region.

“Although the overall numbers remain low, and you’re seeing the COVID case count decline which is great news, the variants are becoming more of concern and so we can’t let up. We’re going to need the public to continue to be diligent because the growth of variants in Peel Region is something that is alarming unfortunately,” Brown said.

On Boxing day, the Ontario government issued a provincewide lockdown in an effort to curb COVID-19 transmission, as daily case counts were topping 3,000.

On Jan. 14, the province also enacted a provincewide stay-at-home order urging residents to only leave their homes for essential purposes, including work, medical reasons, buying groceries and exercising.

As daily case counts began to decline a month after the holidays, the government decided to lift the stay-at-home order for three regions in eastern Ontario on Feb. 10.

On Tuesday, the order was lifted for 27 more public health units, including Halton Region, Durham Region and Hamilton, which were placed in the red “control” category- the second most restrictive level of the framework.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the remaining regions still under lockdown will likely return to the most restrictive “grey” lockdown category when they return to the framework.

On Wednesday at Queen’s Park, Ford said when the COVID-19 hot spots reopen it will be done “very cautiously.”

“At any given time the local medical officer of health can put out a section 22 and put a stop to any opening. So we are doing this very cautiously. We still have the vast majority of the population – in Toronto, York and Peel – determining if it is going to go for another couple weeks based on the advice from the local medical officers of health and we are going to listen to that,” he said.

If the government does move Peel Region back into the framework next week, Loh suggests implementing rapid testing at workplaces and paid sick days, a controversial topic that has been raised by politicians and health officials in the past few months.

“If we are to return to the provincial framework as of next week then I ask that we finally address the issues facing our essential workforce. Blitzes, rapid testing, paid sick days and protections for temporary and contract workers. We’ve said this for months and that is the balance that we must target, if we are going to return to the provincial framework as of next week,” he said.

Loh added that right now is crucial to monitor transmission in schools and across the broader community to avoid a potential third wave.

“I know everyone is tired, but I also know that we can’t afford a third wave and a painful lockdown. So the next few weeks are crucial for our kids, for our businesses, for the success of our vaccination program, and for the most vulnerable among us, as they have always been,” he said.

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COVID-19 Ontario: Province logs more than 1,200 new cases, 28 deaths – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario is recording more than 1,200 new COVID-19 infections, marking the fourth straight day of case counts increasing.

On Friday, provincial health officials logged 1,258 infections of the novel coronavirus, as well as 28 more deaths linked to the disease.

Before that, the province recorded 1,138 new cases on Thursday, 1,054 on Wednesday and 975 on Tuesday.

Daily case counts have hovered slightly above or below the 1,000 mark for much of the past few weeks.

The province’s seven-day average for number of cases recorded is now 1,114, down from 1,206 one week ago.

Of the new cases logged Friday, 362 are in Toronto, 274 are in Peel Region and 104 are in York Region.

York Region moved back into Ontario’s colour-coded reopening framework on Monday, allowing gyms and restaurants to reopen with strict public health measures in place.

Toronto and Peel Region remain under a stay-at-home order until at least March 8.

There were 64,049 COVID-19 tests completed in Ontario in the last-recorded 24-hour period. The test positivity rate now stands at about 2.3 per cent, according to the Ministry of Health.

Friday’s count brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario 298,569, including deaths and recoveries.

With the 28 new deaths confirmed by health officials on Friday, the province’s death toll is now 6,944. None of the new deaths included residents of the province’s long-term care system.

According to the province, there are at least 683 patients infected with the novel coronavirus in Ontario hospitals as of Friday. Of those patients, 284 are in the intensive care unit (ICU) and 193 of those 284 patients are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

At this time last week, there were 689 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Ontario, 269 of which were in the ICU and 190 were on a ventilator.

On Friday, health officials deemed 1,007 more cases of the disease to be resolved, bringing Ontario’s number of recovered patients up to 281,331.

There are currently 10,294 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, down from 10,550 one week ago.

Variants of concern in Ontario

Health officials confirmed Friday that 28 more cases of the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7, have been found in Ontario, bringing the province’s total count to 477.

There is now a total of 14 confirmed cases of the South African variant, known as B.1.351, in Ontario after three new cases were logged by officials on Friday.

No new cases of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, were recorded Friday, keeping the province’s total infection count at two.

Modelling data released by the province on Thursday suggested that the highly-contagious COVID-19 variants are expected to make up about 40 per cent of all Ontario cases by the second week of March, leading to a likely increase in daily infections and hospitalizations.

Vaccinations across the province

Meanwhile, 643,765 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario thus far, including 21,805 administered in the previous day. The vaccine requires two doses. In Ontario, 258,014 total vaccinations have been completed as of Friday.

Backstory:

NOTE: The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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B.C. has COVID-19 under control but variant spread could lead to more restrictions – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It doesn’t look like B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions are going to be relaxed anytime soon, and the province’s top doctor warns that there’s even a chance British Columbians will need to clamp down further.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is holding the line on COVID-19, even though there’s been a slight uptick. However, the spread of variants continues to be top of mind for health officials.

“What I have been concerned about and what we’ve seen in other countries is that when variants of concern start building, that we can see rapid take off and rapid growth. And then we would need to consider is there other ways, other measures we need to take to stop those situations where transmission is happening,” she said Thursday.

“That’s why we’ve been paying attention to workplaces. Why we’re working with WorkSafeBC to get out there into workplaces. Why you’ve seen some of the measures we’ve been taking in places like Big White and Whistler to address the transmission events that are happening there. Paying attention to places that aren’t following adequate safety plans so that we can prevent that from happening,” Henry added.

She says the outcomes in other places around the world where variants of concern have taken hold make it clear she may have to consider stricter measures if that happens here.

With concerns that public health could be stretched thin as it was late last year, Henry admits a number of factors need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether public health orders can be eased or not.

“We have tried all along here in B.C. to keep as much open as we can safely and so keeping that balance means making sure we’re following the safety plans. Making sure we’re not making those exceptions for ourselves that lead to increased risks,” she added, pointing to a recent outbreak at a Port Moody pub which resulted in more than 300 people being affected.

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Ontario reports 1,200+ coronavirus cases; 28 more deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ontario reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 deaths on Friday, also marking the first day in four months where nobody in the long-term care system died of the disease.

Ontario reported 1,138 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 1,054 on Wednesday.

It’s the fourth straight day of increases in the province, as all but 3 of Ontario’s 34 public health units reopened non-essential retail, restaurants and fitness centres earlier this week.

The seven-day rolling average of cases now stands at 1,114, up from 1,098 on Thursday and 1,016 eight days ago.

The number of active cases rose for the second day in a row, to 10,294, still well below our January peak of more than 30,000 active infections.

All of the deaths reported on Friday occurred outside of the long-term care system, the first time that has happened in since Oct. 26. All long-term care residents in the province have received at least one dose of an approved coronavirus vaccine.

Across the GTA, there were 362 new cases in Toronto, 274 new cases in Peel, 104 new cases in York Region, 42 in Durham, 32 in Halton and 64 in Hamilton.

Provincial labs processed 64,049 specimens in the past 24 hours, generating a positivity rate of 2.3 per cent.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CP24 that Thursday’s modelling briefing, although cautiously optimistic, told us that things could still get drastically out of hand with our current daily case growth.

“It was a little more rosy, it does paint a little better picture, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We’re still at 900-1,200 new cases per day here in Ontario, and if we do let our guard down, it will get out of control very quickly.”

Hospitalizations held flat according to official Ministry of Health statistics, which stated 683 people were in hospital, with 284 in intensive care and 193 breathing with the help of a ventilator.

But a Toronto ICU doctor citing Critical Care Services Ontario data said there were 333 patients with COVID-19 in intensive care across the province.

The number of variant of concern cases fully confirmed through whole genomic sequencing rose by 31 on Friday, to 477 B.1.1.7 cases, 14 B.1.351 cases and two P.1 cases.

Meanwhile, the province continues to ramp up its coronavirus vaccine rollout, with several public health units already scheduling or administering vaccines to people aged 80 or over living in the general community.

More than 21,000 doses were administered in the past 24 hours, increasing the provincial total of shots administered to 643,765.

More than 258,000 people have now completed their full two-dose inoculation.

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