COVID-19: Ontario reports 3,871 new cases, announcement expected on vaccine rollout

Ontario reported 3,871 more people with lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 41 more deaths.

It was the highest number of deaths since Feb. 14, when 42 people died, and brought the total number of deaths to 8,029 since the pandemic began.

Most of the new cases were in the hotspot regions of Toronto (1,172 cases); Peel (901); York Region (392); and Durham (292).

There were 147 new cases in Ottawa, according to Ontario Public Health. That number usually varies slightly from the statistics released by Ottawa Public Health in the afternoon, because the data is collected at different tines.

Eastern Ontario reported 16 new cases, Leeds-Grenville and Lanark reported 10 cases and Renfrew reported 12.

Health Minister Christine Elliott announced on Twitter that the province had administered 5,027,770 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of 8 p.m. Wednesday. The province says 365,166 people have been fully inoculated.

She said in the legislature Thursday that the province was on track to exceed its goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of Ontario adults by the end of April.

Ontario is expected to announce an update to its vaccine rollout on Thursday.

The province has been under pressure to allocate more of the vaccine to essential workers in hot spots such as areas of Peel and Toronto, where COVID-19 rates are surging.

Last week, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table recommended the province adjust its vaccine distribution strategy to send 50 per cent of all incoming doses to 74 neighbourhoods the province deemed to be hotspots.

The epidemiologists, doctors and scientists in the independent advisory group said the adjustment in strategy could lead to 1,700 fewer hospitalizations and at least 500 fewer deaths due to COVID-19.

Elliott has said the government is considering the recommendation. She and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones are scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Currently Ontario allocates 25 per cent of vaccine doses to 114 hot spot areas. The government has also been under criticism for weeks over its choice of some hot spot neighbourhoods on that list, including one postal code area in Kanata.

The province has been lobbied by various groups seeking to move up their place in the vaccine queue, from teachers to bus drivers. Starting Thursday, workers in licensed child-care centres are eligible to sign up for a shot.

The provincial strategy has been primarily based on vaccinating those most at risk of serious illness or death, which means giving priority for shots based on age, with some adjustment for high-risk groups.

According to Wednesday’s daily report, over 116,000 doses had been given in the province in the past 24 hours.

The province’s vaccine rollout has also been criticized as confusing and inefficient.

The shots are delivered through a mix of municipally run mass vaccination sites, “pop-up” clinics which have seen people wait for hours and sometimes get turned away, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. There is an online appointment system run by the province but individual pharmacies and clinics do their own bookings, with some people spending hours trying to find and book an appointment.

“This whole thing is a mess,” said London NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan in the legislature Thursday. He called the vaccination rollout inconsistent, confusing, and slapshot, saying people have turned to social media for tips on finding an appointment.

Elliott said the rollout has been a “great success.” While supply has been a problem in the past, the province will receive a significant shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech shots next week and also expects a deliver of the Moderna vaccine, she said.

Premier Doug Ford remains in self-isolation after possible exposure to the virus.

Latest COVID-19 news from Quebec

Quebec’s public health institute says it expects the number of new COVID-19 infections in the province to drop quickly by mid-May or early June because of the pace of vaccinations.

Marc Brisson, with Institut national de santé publique du Québec, said Thursday the projections are optimistic, especially for the Montreal area, because of the expected deliveries of vaccines over the next few weeks.

He noted, however, that in hard-hit regions such as Quebec City and Outaouais relaxing public health orders could lead to exponential growth in infections in the weeks before vaccines begin to reduce the number of new cases.

Quebec’s health ministry reported 1,042 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

It’s the second day in a row cases have topped 1,000, after two days where rates were below 900 a day.

Ten more deaths attributed to the disease were recorded, three of which occurred in the last 24 hours. The provincial death toll now stands at 10,913. (Five fatalities have been removed from the total because it was determined they were not in fact linked to COVID-19).

There were 55 new cases reported in the Outaouais region, a marked decline from Wednesday’s 95 cases. There have been 11,224 people infected by the virus and 195 deaths since the pandemic began.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease dropped by 20, to 623. Of those, 165 are in intensive care, an increase of four over the previous day.

It was the second day in a row where hospitalizations decreased by 20 or more patients. Health officials warned, however, that patients being treated in the ICU are younger than during the first and second waves, and take longer to recuperate than patients seen before.

-With files from The Canadian Press and Postmedia

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