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More COVID-19 restrictions loom across Ontario after new cases leap by 25% in a week


More COVID-19 restrictions loom across Ontario after new cases leap by 25% in a week

York Region is pushing to stay out of lockdown as Ontario’s chief medical officer warns COVID-19 restrictions are about to increase in several areas.

The level of infection spread remains high, outbreaks are popping up in regions where they used to be rare and several regions are struggling with case contact management, Dr. David Williams said Thursday.

“We really have to clamp down,” Williams added, pointing to a 25 per cent increase in infections over the last week as measured by the seven-day moving average of cases.

“That doesn’t give us much solace.”

Williams would not tip his hand on which areas are about to face new public health measures in the province’s five-tier, colour-coded framework of restrictions, other than saying “a number of them are moving up.”

Criteria include weekly cases per 100,000 population, the percentage of residents testing positive for COVID-19, and capacity of hospitals and public health units to cope.

Ontario’s seven-day average for new cases reached 1,769 on Thursday, another in a daily string of records, as the province reported 1,824 new infections, including 127 recorded over three days from Middlesex-London that skewed the daily number higher. There were 14 more deaths.

York medical officer Dr. Karim Kurji said he is comfortable keeping the region in the red or “control” zone, one short of the lockdown that Toronto and Peel Region are in.

“I am hopeful,” Kurji said, maintaining “the gain from going into lockdown would be minimal.”

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York Region had 187 new cases, compared with 592 in Peel Region and 396 in Toronto.

Decisions on which regions will be moved up in the framework — which goes from green to yellow, orange, red and then grey for lockdown — will announced Friday after Williams makes his recommendations to Premier Doug Ford and the cabinet.

Aside from York, the regions of Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Waterloo and Windsor-Essex are now in the red category. Moving any of them into lockdown would halt indoor dining, close outdoor patios, gyms and theatres.

Three-quarters of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases continue to be in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.

New infections have been above 1,700 a day for almost a week, pushing the number of active cases to an all-time high of 14,795 people diagnosed in the last 14 days.

The rapid rise of the second wave of the pandemic has resulted in a steady increase in hospitalizations, with 10 more admissions bringing the total to 666.

That includes 203 people in intensive care, 116 of whom are on ventilators, according to the most recent census of critical care beds shared by physicians. An average of 17 people have been moved into ICUs each day over the last week.

The number of outbreaks in Ontario’s 626 nursing homes increased by five to 116, with another 52 residents and one staff member testing positive.

Another 122 cases were reported in students and staff in 755 schools, meaning almost 16 per cent of schools have infections. Five were closed for outbreaks, down one from the previous day.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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