COVID-19 Update for December 3 – 2:00PM

Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada gave an update on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. It was stressed that it will work to immunize as many Canadians as possible as quickly as possible, and that Canada is well positioned to provide safe and effective vaccines to all Canadians in 2021.

Track One Vaccines

Track one vaccines are expected to be earliest. Canada will have about 3 million doses in early 2021, and high-priority groups will be vaccinated first.

Typically, vaccines go from the manufacturer to provinces and territories. However, some of the COVID-19 vaccines, such as the ones from Pfizer, will require a novel approach due to their nature.

The Pfizer vaccines that need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures (ULT) will go from the manufacturer straight to where the vaccine is given, controlled by assets from the manufacturer.

Other vaccines, such as the Moderna one that needs to be kept at -20°C, will go from the manufacturer to the point of delivery provided by provinces and territories. Ultimately, each provincial and territorial government is responsible for how to get vaccines, with the exception of ULT vaccines.

Major General Dany Fortin of the Canadian Armed Forces was present, explaining the measures they are taking to ensure that Canada has a timely and fair rollout.

Freezers for ULT vaccines have been purchased, delivery timelines are being tracked and delivered to provinces and territories as they come in. Dry ice contracts have also been put in place, and kits are being assembled and put in key transfer points working with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners.

Tests and drills are also being done by the military to ensure proper delivery and administration.

Track Two Vaccines

Dr. Njoo of PHAC said they will have another announcement next week regarding track two vaccines.

Ontario’s Response

Premier Doug Ford held his daily media availability to respond to the federal announcements regarding the vaccine rollout.

He said that there is a lot of work left to do. He stressed that we need to know, in no uncertain terms, which vaccines we will get, how many and when they will arrive in Ontario.

Premier Ford acknowledged that it will be complicated due to the size of Ontario and the complexities that brings. However, the Ontario government will be announcing its COVID-19 Task Force tomorrow.

COVID-19 Update for December 2 – 2:30PM

Ford announces $115M investment in virtual care and community care services

Today, Premier Doug Ford announced an investment of $115M to help 815 hospital patients with high complex care needs transition to home or community care. These patients will be able to have all their healthcare needs addressed at home, including up to eleven hours per day of healthcare services. Province-wide, this would equate to 484,000 nursing visits and approximately 1.4 million hours of care from personal support workers.

This investment includes $14.5M to expand virtual care for Ontario health teams as well as for frontline home and community care providers. Ontario has seen an increase in virtual care being delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic and this investment will allow the government to sustain these new levels of virtual care capacity. Specifically, this investment will be allocated to purchasing new technology for video conferencing, remote monitoring and secure messaging to allow the delivery of care at home to continue.

You can read the full announcement here.

COVID-19 Update for November 27 2020 – 1:40pm

COVID-19 vaccine distribution was the priority for both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford in today’s media briefings. Both are relying on military expertise to deliver vaccines once they are approved.

But even as they talked about vaccines as the “light at the end of the tunnel,” Ontario was moving five regions into tighter restrictions in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

National Operations Centre

Prime Minister Trudeau announced a National Operations Centre for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines through the Public Health Agency of Canada, with the support of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The centre will be led by former NATO commander Dany Fortin, Chief of Staff of Canadian Joint Operations Command, and will be responsible for planning, logistical support, storage, data-sharing and coordination with Indigenous and rural communities.

“When a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready,” Trudeau vowed, noting this will be “the biggest immunization in the history of the country.”

Canada Forecast

Shortly after the Prime Minister’s announcement, federal public health officials provided an update on the national COVID-19 forecast for the coming weeks. Given the recent case trend across the country, Chief Public Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam estimates that Canada could see up to 10,000 new COVID-19 cases daily by mid-December.

Ontario Logistics

Premier Ford was joined at his briefing by retired General Rick Hillier, the former head of the Canadian Armed forces who was appointed by Ford to chair the province’s COVID-19 distribution task force.

Citing December 31 as the date to be ready, Hillier said “a huge amount of work” has already been done as the province builds a “coherent” approach tying together four key pillars of the vaccine rollout: distribution and logistics, medical administration, public education and tracking.

Both Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott cited the arrival of the vaccine as the big question mark and said they are pressing the federal government for clarity on both the volume and timing of vaccines Ontario will be receiving.

“The clock is ticking. We can’t be last in line,” Ford intoned.

Five Regions Move to Tighter Restrictions

As of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, five public health regions in Ontario will move to new levels with stronger public health measures:

  • Red – Control
    • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
  • Orange – Restrict
    • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
  • Yellow – Protect
    • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
    • Lambton Public Health
    • Northwestern Health Unit

COVID-19 Update for November 26 2020 – 4:30pm

Today Dr. David Williams, Dr. Dirk Huyer, and Dr. Adalsteinn Brown discussed Ontario’s updated COVID-19 modelling data.

Ontario is in a “fragile and precarious” state, though COVID-19 case numbers as a key indicator show signs of flattening.

During the update, Dr. Brown shared that key COVID-19 indicators across the province still vary widely by public health unit, but are showing signs of flattening. While there is some optimism over these flattening indicators, it is still too early to know whether Ontario has actually flattened the curve.

This encouraging new data notwithstanding, Ontario can still expect to see a rise in hospital admissions and deaths over the coming weeks, as these are “lagging” indicators that can be weeks behind case counts. It is worth noting that even in a best-case scenario, Ontario will have over 200 ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, which will continue to impact healthcare delivery in Ontario.

A best-case scenario would see cases around 1,200 – 1,300 per day in Ontario during December. A worst-case scenario would see case growth match the levels we saw at the last modeling update, with upwards of 9,000 cases a day in the province by late December.

Dr. Williams is asking Ontarians to continue to adhere to the new public health measures so that we can begin to see a decrease in daily case numbers, allowing the province to move out of this precarious situation.

You can read the full report here.

COVID-19 Update for November 26 2020 – 1:50pm

During his daily media briefing from a Mississauga school today, Premier Doug Ford announced investments for schools in the red control zone.

More Education Funding

Today, the Premier announced $13.6 million for schools in public health regions that have recently moved to the red control zone — Hamilton, Halton, Durham and Waterloo. The money can be used to hire new teachers and custodians as well as increase the resources available for remote learning.

Premier Ford also announced that the government has expanded testing capacity in targeted schools across the province. These schools are located in neighbourhoods that are experiencing high rates of community transmission and will allow asymptomatic students in Toronto, Ottawa, York and Peel to be tested for COVID-19.

Read the province’s media release here.

COVID-19 Update for November 24 2020 – 1:55pm

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the launch of supports for Canadian businesses and an agreement to secure doses of a COVID-19 treatment from AbCellera Biologics. Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled that the province has acquired new rapid tests for COVID-19 and a pilot project for rapid testing in workplaces.

Support for Canadian Businesses

The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), launched yesterday, will support up to 65 per cent of eligible expenses for tenants and property owners. An additional up to 25 per cent support will be provided to qualifying organizations under lockdown orders, meaning that up to 90 per cent of expenses may be covered by the federal government.

More information on the CERS can be found here.

Additionally, Trudeau announced that the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) has been extended to June 2021. The deadline to apply is whichever is sooner of January 31, 2021 or 180 days after the end of the claim period.

More information on the CEWS can be found here.

COVID-19 Treatment

The Prime Minister also announced today that the federal government has secured 26,000 doses of a therapeutic drug from AbCellera Biologics that treats COVID-19. Manufactured by Eli Lilly and developed in Vancouver, the agreement also allows for the option of “thousands more” doses, according to Trudeau.

Rapid Tests in Ontario

Ontario has acquired 1.2 million Panbio rapid antigen tests and approximately 98,000 ID NOW tests to screen for COVID-19. Both of these rapid tests are being deployed on the frontlines for COVID-19, with Panbio supporting a screening program for long-term care homes and other workplaces and ID NOW being used in hospitals and assessment centres in rural and remote communities, according to the news release.

Panbio tests will also be used to facilitate an eight-week pilot for participating employers in the private, public and not-profit settings with a priority for healthcare, essential frontline, and congregate settings. This pilot will help inform the value of the antigen screening for asymptomatic workers and, according the release, will “inform future decisions about safety and fully reopening the economy.”

The full release can be found here.

COVID-19 Update for November 20 2020 – 4:20pm

The Ontario government announced today it is moving Toronto and Peel Region into lockdown on Monday morning in an effort to stem the growing number of COVID-19 cases in each area.

Lockdown

During his daily media briefing, Premier Doug Ford announced that, in an effort to keep schools open, protect long-term care homes from widespread outbreaks and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, the City of Toronto and Region of Peel will move into a lockdown effective as of Sunday midnight. Citing statistics that in recent weeks COVID-19-related hospitalizations were up 22 per cent and ICU admissions up 50 per cent, Ford said the situation across the province is “extremely serious.”

Among the restrictions in lockdown:

  • No indoor private gatherings with anyone outside your household, and individuals living alone are permitted to have exclusive contact with one other person.
  • Outdoor organized activities are limited to 10 people.
  • Weddings, funerals and religious services are restricted to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors.
  • Retail stores are permitted to open for curbside pickup or delivery, with exceptions for grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, beer, wine and liquor stores, safety supply stores and convenience stores.
  • Indoor dining at bars and restaurants is prohibited. Restaurants and bars will only be able to provide takeout or delivery.
  • Personal care services, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments must remain closed.
  • Indoor sports and recreation facilities — including pools — will be closed with limited exceptions.

The lockdown is to stay in effect for a minimum of 28 days.

The lockdown announcement also included moving other regions on the province’s COVID-19 scale, including moving Durham and Waterloo regions into the Red – Control zone.

Citing the good news about potential vaccines coming from Pfizer and Moderna, Health Minister Christine Elliott asked for patience and acceptance: “There’s light at the end of the tunnel. But now, more than ever, everyone must follow public health advice and adhere to the restrictions in your region.”

Read the province’s media release here.

Support for Businesses

In an effort to help businesses in areas in Lockdown and Red-Control, the province is doubling support – to $600 million – to help with fixed costs such as utilities and property taxes. A detailed list of eligible businesses, as well as instructions for applying, can be found here (Ontario.ca/covidsupport).

COVID-19 Update for November 20 2020 – 12:15pm

This morning, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo released updated modelling data for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Trudeau also held media availability this morning, opening by saying “I don’t want to be here right now. You don’t want me to be here right now.” He urged Canadians to listen to public health advice and warned that “we are going to have to really tighten up once again.”

He referenced the current modelling numbers and encouraged all orders of government to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.

New COVID-19 Modelling Data

The newest modelling data from the country’s chief public health officers shows that “without sufficient reduction in contact rates”, Canada is on track to see 20,000 daily cases in the country by mid-December, according to Dr. Tam.

Over the past 7 days, there has been a daily average of 4,776 new cases in the country, the highest average of the pandemic thus far. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec are all showing ‘rapid growth’ according to the modelling data. More health regions are reporting higher rates of COVID-19 infection, with 48 health regions reporting 50 or more cases per 100,000 population. The average number of people who become infected by an infectious person, known as the Rt, has been greater than 1 in Canada since mid-August, demonstrating that the virus continues to spread quickly. The modelling data highlights how large outbreaks (over 50 infections linked through contact tracing) are growing in a variety of settings such as long-term care homes, schools and social gatherings. Indigenous communities are also seeing a rapid increase in daily infections. Hospitalizations are on the rise and anticipated to increase based on other countries’ experience.

The short-term forecast demonstrates that Canada will be on track to see 366,500 – 378,600 cumulative cases (currently there are 315,751, of which 252,294 are considered recovered) and 11,870 – 12,120 cumulative deaths (currently 11,265) by November 30. Dr. Tam underlined that the longer-range forecast demonstrates a need for a stronger response to slow the spread of COVID-19, and that every effort undertaken by Canadians will make a difference. While the news of the vaccine candidates is promising, Canadians still must “do what is needed” – limit outings, only socialize with individuals in a household and continue to follow public health measures.

Help for Indigenous Communities

Prime Minister Trudeau announced more than $120 million to Indigenous communities with outbreaks in Saskatchewan and Alberta, after last week’s help for Manitoba.

COVID-19 Update for November 19 2020 – 2:00pm

During his daily media briefing today, Premier Doug Ford launched an education and enforcement blitz in advance of a warning of more stringent measures coming tomorrow.

Inspection Blitzes to Stem the Spread

The Premier announced that the Government of Ontario is launching a series of awareness, education and enforcement blitzes to ensure Ontario businesses are following public health measures. This includes more than 200 provincial offence officers from various ministries being deployed across communities in “yellow and orange” zones to ensure local businesses are following public health measures.

This campaign is based on health, safety, education and enforcement. The province hopes that these proactive visits will help communities avoid moving into the “red” zone.

Read the province’s media release here.

Tough Measures are Coming

In closing his statement, Ford confirmed the government will be announcing tougher public health restrictions tomorrow. He warned that these measures will be strict, especially in hotspots across the province.

COVID-19 Update for November 18 2020 – 2:00pm

Today, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced support for new Ontario Health Teams and provided updates on COVID-19 rapid testing and testing in long-term care homes.

Ontario Health Teams

Premier Ford announced that the Ontario government is providing $2.4 million to support an additional 13 Ontario Health Teams.

Health teams will provide patients and families access to 24/7 navigation and care coordination services. This includes further expansion of virtual care for patients through dedicated funding to maintain access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the additional health teams, the province will have a total of 42 teams, serving more than 86 per cent of Ontario’s population.

Rapid Testing

Premier Ford said that Ontario has received about 98,000 ID NOW rapid tests from Ottawa, along with an unspecified number of Panbio tests. He said that these tests are being delivered to areas with the greatest need, such as hot spots and areas where turnaround times for results are lengthy, such as remote and rural areas.

Long-term Care

The Ontario government is updating testing guidance for long-term care homes in communities with greater transmission of COVID-19. Starting next week, in long-term care homes in public health unit regions in the Orange-Restrict, Red-Control and Lockdown levels under the COVID-19 Response Framework, the following changes will be made:

  • Staff, essential caregivers and support workers who provide direct care to residents need to be tested for COVID-19 weekly and show proof of a negative test result.
  • Support workers who do not provide direct care to residents must verbally attest to having received a negative COVID-19 test result in the past two weeks and not subsequently tested positive.

For long-term care homes in regions at the Green-Prevent and Yellow-Protect levels, testing will continue every two weeks for staff, volunteers, caregivers and visitors.

Further Measures

Finally, Premier Ford said that “we are staring down the barrel of another lockdown” for hotspot regions such as Toronto, York and Peel. He said he will make an announcement on Friday about any new measures that may be imposed.