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Ontario reports 412 new COVID-19 cases as upward trend continues

Ontario reported 412 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, continuing an upward trend and pushing the total number of cases in the province to more than 25,000 since the pandemic began.

Of the total number, 76.5 per cent, or 19,146, are resolved. 

The new numbers are a drop after Friday’s 441 new cases, which was the most reported on a single day since May 8. However, the five-day rolling average of new cases has been trending steadily upward since May 12.

Meanwhile, the province fell short of its testing target for the sixth day in a row on Friday, processing 11,028 tests out of a 16,000 daily benchmark.

The province reported a total of 2,048 deaths as of Saturday, 62.6 per cent of which are of residents in long-term care homes.

A count by CBC News, compiled from regional public health units, puts the current toll at at least 2,140 deaths.

Of the province’s total COVID-19 cases to date, 15,302 have been linked to outbreaks or close contact of a confirmed case, while 3,162 are attributed to community spread. 

The Ontario health ministry said on Saturday it has changed the way it breaks down cases linked to outbreaks as opposed to what it considers community cases.

Cases linked to outbreaks are any cases connected to an outbreak as declared by a public health unit, which could include a funeral or family barbecue, and not just those specific to a hospital or institution. 

The data comes at the start of a warm weekend, the first after Ontario officially began the first phase of its reopening.

Testing begins for asymptomatic health-care workers

New testing regulations took effect on Saturday, with asymptomatic front-line health-care workers being tested across the province.

The province will also begin a second round of testing in long-term care homes, which have been hardest hit by COVID-19. As criticism mounts about the number of tests being done in Ontario, Ford appealed to anyone with symptoms on Friday to visit a COVID-19 assessment centre.  

Friday was the sixth straight day that the province has failed to meet its 16,000 test target. Its capacity is 20,000 tests. The backlog of tests waiting to be processed has grown to 5,871.

Hospital official criticizes lack of testing strategy

Dr. Camille Lemieux, the medical director of Toronto Western Hospital’s COVID assessment centre, said she hasn’t seen much of a testing strategy from the province.

Lemieux said broad-based testing should be accessible to everyone, but that’s not what is actually happening.

The province started the pandemic with assessment centres that had very restrictive rules to get tested, which she said has led many in the public to believe that it’s still difficult to get a test.

Ford said the province plans to launch an advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness that tests are available.

Women account for 56.5% of cases

As of Saturday’s report, there are 961 people in hospital, of which 153 were in intensive care. Of those patients, 120 were on a ventilator.  

A total of 292 outbreaks have been reported in long-term care homes during the pandemic, up five from the previous day’s total.

There are 212 outbreaks in long-term care homes as well as 79 outbreaks in retirement homes and 51 outbreaks in hospitals, the province said.

Women account for more than half the total cases, at 56.5 per cent, while 42.7 per cent of cases are among males.

The 20 to 39 age range makes up 24.8 per cent of all confirmed cases, with 3.1 of cases among people ages 19 and under. Some 30.5 per cent of total confirmed cases in the province have been in people aged 40 to 59.

People aged 60 to 79 account for 20.8 per cent of cases and those over 80 account for 20.7 per cent of cases.

The Greater Toronto Area continues to account for a majority of cases, 64.3 per cent, in Ontario. 

Protesters call for an end to shutdown

Meanwhile, about 200 people gathered again at Queen’s Park on Saturday to protest against provincial emergency orders in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

One person held a sign saying the virus is a hoax, while the message “COVID is a lie” was painted on a truck. Other protesters held signs bearing messages such as “the lockdown is unlawful” and “my body my choice no vaccine.” 

Premier Doug Ford has previously blasted such anti-lockdown demonstrations, calling protesters “a bunch of yahoos,” selfish and irresponsible.

The premier was angered earlier this month when protesters turned a Canadian flag upside down during their demonstration.

About 200 protesters were at Queen’s Park on Saturday, calling for an end to COVID-19 lockdown measures. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Dentists get new guidelines during COVID-19 recovery

Meanwhile, Ontario’s dentists have a new set of guidelines on how to operate during this phase of COVID-19 recovery. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario released the document on Friday afternoon.

Dentists had previously only been allowed to practice emergency or urgent care on patients in-person, but can now offer other essential services with enhanced precautions.

The guidelines say it’s particularly difficult to protect against COVID-19 in dentistry because many procedures generate droplets and aerosols.

The college says dentists must use N95 respirators, gloves, eye protection, face shields and protective gowns when performing procedures that generate aerosols.

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