BY CLOVER STERLING
The push to curb rising COVID-19 case counts in Peel, Toronto and other hotspots in the region grew Wednesday, as the province announced it would be hiring hundreds of contact tracers to more effectively track infection rates. The news came after public health officials ordered a modified version of its Stage 2 lockdown for at least 28 days across the province, in tandem with new limits on visits and resident outings at long-term homes in Peel.
The province’s health ministry reported 721 new confirmed cases of the virus Wednesday — a slight drop from 746 cases reported on Tuesday, and lower than the record-high 939 cases reported on Oct. 8. The province’s seven-day rolling average stands at 781 cases/ Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday that the province would be working with Peel to assist contact tracers within the workforce. While specific numbers of tracers for the region weren’t provided, an estimated 200 staff members will be onboarded in Toronto, along with an additional 150 staff in the Ottawa area. “We need more contact tracers to ensure the province is able to identify and isolate new cases to limit and stop the spread of the virus,” said Elliott during a news conference at Queen’s Park.
“Case and contact management is a key component of Ontario’s fall preparedness plan. As part of that plan, our government will continue to work collaboratively with public health units and provide additional staff and resources to support this important work.” This partial scaleback was deemed necessary, with Peel accounting for 150 cases from the provincial total on Oct. 8. Resolved cases exceeded confirmed cases for the first time in several days, with 783 recoveries versus 721 new confirmed cases. The province also announced that shortterm and temporary absences for residents at long-term care homes in Peel and other COVID-19 hotspots would not be allowed, with only medical or compassionate visits being exempt, in an effort to prevent further outbreaks at such facilities.
This past summer saw public outrage and lawsuits leveled at several long-term care homes that dealt with inadequate living conditions, prompting direct oversight by the province and the deployment of military personnel to aid staff. “We recognize these changes may be difficult for the residents and families affected,” said Minister of Long- Term Care, Minister of Long-Term Care. “But our priority has to be the safety and wellbeing of the residents and staff in Ontario’s long-term care homes.” While nine virus-related deaths were reported by the province on Tuesday, no new deaths were listed on Wednesday. Patients in intensive care are also on the rise, with 64 cases listed on Wednesday versus 43 the previous week. COVID-19 related hospitalizations were also listed at 231 cases, versus 195 a week earlier. Last week, officials in Toronto indicated that the province could face much larger ICU rates by early next month if additional measures weren’t taken.
“These new measures wouldn’t have been necessary if people had followed the public health protocols, such as wearing masks, physical distancing and washing of hands,” said Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams. As per the restrictions, all indoor restaurant and bar seating is prohibited until at least Oct. 28, but patio service will continue. All theatres, cinemas, museums, art galleries, zoos, fitness centres, yoga classes and public pools are also shut down.
Limits on social gatherings are reduced to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors in Peel, with exceptions being made to malls, schools and daycares, which will remain open. Real estate open houses and spectator arenas are limited to ten people or Camilla Care Community, below, is one of several LTC facilities in Peel facing additional restrictions for resident trips, the province announced Wednesday. (PWN File Photo / Sienna Senior Living) less. City officials in Peel also urged residents this week to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave for essential reasons.
“No doubt this is a tough call, particularly given the tremendous progress we’ve made in recent weeks here in Caledon,” said Mayor Allan Thompson. “We need to go by the science and we need to protect the most vulnerable among us… limit trips to essential purposes, wear a mask, physically distance, wash your hands and stay home if you are not feeling well. Together, we can prevent something much worse.