Ontario reported 1,563 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — an increase from the 1,172 cases reported on Wednesday and the 745 on Tuesday, although those lower numbers were due to Toronto Public Health migrating their data to the provincial data system, resulting in an underestimation of cases. Of the new cases reported Thursday, 584 are in Toronto, 265 in Peel, 132 in York Region, 78 in Hamilton, 58 in Halton, and 34 in Durham.
The province also reported 88 more deaths, totalling 379 deaths in the last week, with 6,393 COVID-19 deaths reported in Ontario since the pandemic began.
There have been 6,700 vaccines administered across the province in the past 24 hours. As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, a total of 355,055 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario (with 80,977 people having received the two-dose inoculation).
Ontario is reporting 1,563 cases of #COVID19 and nearly 64,500 tests completed. Locally, there are 584 new cases in Toronto, 265 in Peel and 132 in York Region.
As of 8:00 p.m. yesterday, 355,055 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) February 4, 2021
Last week, Premier Doug Ford said that the government would use “every single vaccine” they can to protect the most vulnerable, by accelerating vaccinations for the most vulnerable seniors and the people who take care of them. The goal was to complete all long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes, province-wide, by Feb. 5 instead of Feb. 15.
But in a press briefing on Tuesday, provincial officials noted that due to scaled-back shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to Canada, the new goal is now Feb. 10. The government now expects to receive about 80 per cent fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the first two weeks of February, and approximately 20 per cent fewer Moderna vaccines this week.
“The shipment delays with the Pfizer vaccine have been incredibly disappointing,” Ford said. “And to be told on Friday that we would receive 18,200 less doses of the Moderna vaccine, I can’t stress how frustrating that is.”
When Ford was asked if his government made a mistake in not prioritizing vaccinations earlier in long-term care home residents, Ford compared Ontario’s strategy rollout to Quebec.
“You look at our friends over in Quebec and they’re doing a great job, but they have zero second vaccinations. Zero. We have 70,000 already done because of the smart move that General Hillier and the task force and ministers and everyone made the choice to be cautious,” Ford said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a tentative deal with vaccine-maker Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine at the National Research Council of Canada’s Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Montréal — although it wouldn’t start delivering until late fall. Providence Therapeutics, based in Toronto and Calgary, has also invested in a Calgary manufacturing facility — human trials are underway, and the company could start distributing vaccines this year if the federal government commits to an order.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the province announced that schools in Toronto, Peel, and York Region will stay closed until Tuesday, Feb. 16, but in-person learning for most of southern Ontario will resume on Monday, Feb. 8.
“While this has not been easy on Ontario parents, students and our education staff, I want to be clear safety is what has and will drive our decisions every step of the way,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a press conference on Wednesday, alongside Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
“We have followed the expert and medical advice of the chief medical officer of health and local medical officers of health. If they give us an indication that there is a risk to schools, to communities, or to your child and to our staff, what I mean is, I will not hesitate to act. Because, for us, this is a very clear message we’re sending to the population, we’re reopening because it is safe,” Lecce added.
Of course, not everyone believes it is safe to return to schools at this time.
Despite ZERO evidence to back it up, Dr. Williams claims:
1. We had NO cases of Covid acquired in schools. None.
2. Covid in schools is strictly from the community; and, once in the school, it stays in the school, isn’t passed on, & never re-enters the community.
This guy. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/bcmDY4PeRz
— Ryan Imgrund (@imgrund) February 3, 2021
To support the safe return of in-person learning, Ontario has introduced new measures to continue to protect students and staff against COVID-19 in the classroom. These measures include:
- Province-wide access to targeted asymptomatic testing.
- Mandatory masking requirements for students in Grades 1-3, and masking requirement for Grades 1-12 outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Providing high-quality cloth masks to schools as back-up supplies.
- Enhanced COVID-19 screening.
- Discouraging students from congregating before and after school.
- Temporary certification of eligible teacher candidates who are set to graduate in 2021 to help stabilize staffing levels.
Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.