Dec 21, 2021
Ontario's top doctor gives COVID-19 update as province deals with Omicron
The Canadian Press,
It's not our first rodeo: Kingston business adapts to Ontario's reinstated COVID restrictions
TORONTO -- Ontario's top doctor is giving an update on the COVID-19 situation in the province Tuesday as the highly infectious Omicron variant puts pressure on health systems.
The province reported 3,453 new COVID-19 cases and 11 virus deaths as some hospitals said they were suspending non-essential services to brace for the impact of rising infections.
In Toronto, the Unity Health hospital network said it had made the "difficult decision" to pause non-essential ambulatory care and surgical procedures, with the exception of urgent cases.
"Right now we need to focus all of our efforts, our people and resources on caring for our patients and assuring that we have the capacity to meet the demands of the pandemic," Tim Rutledge, the network's president and CEO, said in a statement.
There were 165 people in intensive care due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 101 patients on ventilators across the province. Forecasts from Ontario's expert pandemic advisers predict cases will keep rising over the next month, with a spike in hospitalizations to follow.
An earlier wave of infections fueled by the Delta variant has been largely overtaken by the new Omicron variant, which is considered far more infectious, even for people who are vaccinated with two COVID-19 shots. The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table estimated Omicron made up about 88 per cent of cases as of Tuesday.
In response to the variant threat, the province is speeding up its booster dose plan for all adults, opening up eligibility to all adults three months from their second dose this week. Capacity restrictions have also been brought in for some businesses, entertainment venues and social gatherings.
Some areas of the province are struggling to keep up with managing rising number of cases, while also trying to staff the ambitious vaccine rollout -- which saw 206,000 shots administered on Monday, according to Premier Doug Ford.
Ottawa Public Health has asked residents who have symptoms but can't access a timely test to assume they are infected and self-isolate. The health unit has also advised that contact tracers may not be able to reach all contacts of infected people and individuals should reach out to their close contacts themselves.
Testing resources were also reportedly strained in Kingston last week, and other health units have said they are bracing for the same problems.
A professional group representing medical laboratory professionals warned last week that labs are under "extreme pressure" from the ongoing case spike and would likely be unable to keep up with the projected explosive growth.
"The wave of new cases would completely overwhelm our laboratories which are already just hanging on by an ever-thinning thread," Michelle Hoad, CEO of the Medical Laboratory Professionals' Association of Ontario, said in a statement.
The group said people should follow public health measures and get vaccinated as soon as possible to keep the spread at a minimum.
Meanwhile, at least one Ontario region put out a call for businesses in the community to offer up their physical locations for vaccine clinics as the province rushes to get boosters to residents.
Waterloo Region said it's looking for businesses to host on-site clinics for staff and their families, now that 350,000 residents have become eligible for booster shots. It said the region is looking to replicate "en masse" a vaccine clinic model that a few dozen local businesses used successfully in the summer.
Ford was among the Ontarians who received a third shot on Tuesday. On social media, he shared a photo from the Toronto pharmacy where he received a third shot.
"It is critical that every Ontarian is protected from Omicorn," he wrote on Twitter. "If you are eligible for your vaccine and booster, please sign up today."