March 19 COVID-19 update: Red-control first day numbers, 75-and-up eligible for vaccination, Province’s top doc says third wave here, Ottawa Hospital deals with biggest outbreak yet

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – On Ottawa’s first day in the province’s red-control zone (March 19) of its COVID-19 response framework, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting one new death and 74 new confirmed cases.

The additional death brings Ottawa’s pandemic toll to 451.

The weekly incidence rate is up to 50 per 100,000 (the threshold for Ontario’s red tier is 40), while 2.9 per cent of residents being tested for COVID-19 are seeing positive results (the red threshold is 2.5 per cent).

OPH says the number of active cases in Ottawa is up to 668 today, while the number of hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 is also up, slightly, to 23 with four patients in intensive care.

There are 23 healthcare institutions, eight schools and one childcare centre dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. One community outbreak at a workplace has been cleared, but there remains one community outbreak linked to a multi-unit dwelling and another stemming from a workplace warehouse.

The City of Ottawa has administered 87,737 COVID-19 vaccines, after receiving 97,170 doses. Its latest shipment included 10,530 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, last Monday (March 15).

There have been 15,914 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since March 2020, of which 14,795 have been resolved.

Ontario is reporting 1,745 new cases of COVID-19, Friday, including 11 in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region, 16 in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark district and one in Renfrew County.

Ontario to target new age group starting Monday

ONTARIO – Ontario is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine effort to those 75 and older starting Monday (March 22) while certain pharmacies will be able to administer doses to more seniors.

Premier Doug Ford said the province’s immunization rollout is ahead of schedule, which is why Ontario’s vaccine booking system will take appointments from residents aged 75 and up starting Monday.

“Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline healthcare heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined,” Ford said in today’s media availability.

The province said more than 50 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and older have now received at least one vaccine dose.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who is leading the provincial vaccine task force, noted there has been a decline in the number of adults aged 80 and older booking appointments. He said the province wants to keep the supply moving.

“What we’re following is a trend on bookings itself,” Hillier told reporters. “As soon as that starts to decrease below the capacity that we have and the vaccines that we are anticipating, then obviously we want to move to the next age group because we don’t want to have a single day with seats empty that we otherwise could have filled.”

Hillier said bookings will continue for those aged 80 and older as vaccinations are offered to more people.

The 75 and older cohort was initially set to become eligible in April.

A pilot program offering vaccines in some pharmacies is also expanding and, as of Monday, will offer the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot to anyone aged 60 and older.

The pharmacy project previously only offered the shot to those aged 60 to 64 but the government says it is expanding after new guidelines deemed the shot safe for those 65 and older.

The number of participating pharmacies is also doubling to approximately 700 over the next two weeks. The province said that number is expected to rise to approximately 1,500 by the end of April.

Depending on vaccine supply, the province said retail pharmacies could administer up to 40 per cent of all vaccinations by the end of April.

Eligible residents can contact a participating pharmacy directly to make an appointment. Participating pharmacies are currently located in the Toronto, Kingston and Windsor health units but Ford said the project will be expanding “across the province.”

Ontario chief medical officer of health says third wave here

ONTARIO – The province’s top doctor has confirmed we are in the third wave of the pandemic.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams’ comments come as the latest provincial numbers confirmed two additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK and an additional case of the P.1 variant first detected in Brazil are here.

There are now 1,136 cumulative cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, 47 cases of the B 1.351 variant, and 35 cases of the P.1 variant first detected in Brazil.

“We are in the third wave it is just a matter of what kind of wave is it,” Dr. David Williams said yesterday (March 18) during a media availability. “Is it an undulating wave? Is it a rapidly rising breaking wave? Is it going to look like wave two? We don’t know right now.”

Williams adds Ontarians have to be “extra cautious” in the weeks ahead and the next couple of months will be critical.

The wave is being driven by the more contagious variants of concern that continue to account for the majority of new cases.

Premier Doug Ford was asked today (March 19), given that Toronto and Peel Region continue to lead the case count, do lockdowns really work.

“Some people may think it’s okay to open it wide open and every man, woman, and child for themselves – I don’t believe that,” said Ford. “I believe we have to be super cautious.”

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said strong adherence to public health measures is urgently needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed in the third wave.

The premier says he’s always mindful of what the province’s science advisory table has to say, noting that Ontario “can’t let our guard down for one second.”

It comes as Toronto and Peel’s top doctor recommend allowing restrictions in “Grey-Lockdown” to be eased strictly for outdoor events; such as patio dining.

A move Dr. Williams says he will discuss with the medical officers of health.

The province’s test positivity rate is down to 3.1 per cent from 3.5 per cent a day ago. Tuesday’s number, 4.5 per cent, was the highest positivity rate the province has reported in over a month.

“I believe we have to be super cautious.”

As the province attempts to ramp up its vaccination efforts, Ontario’s Science Advisory Table said this week that the province has already entered the third wave of COVID-19.

The group says the growth in variant cases is happening across the province with almost two-thirds of public health units experiencing exponential growth.

The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said strong adherence to public health measures is urgently needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed in the third wave.

The Premier says he’s always mindful of what the province’s science advisory table has to say, noting that Ontario “can’t let our guard down for one second.”

Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus outbreak results in seven deaths

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus is managing its biggest ongoing COVID-19 outbreak yet — an outbreak that has resulted in seven deaths.

According to a statement from the hospital, the outbreak involved 42 cases in total, 27 patients and 15 staff members, over the course of the last four weeks.

The outbreak started on Feb. 19. The last identified case related to the outbreak was on March 11.

This is the Civic Campus’ seventh reported COVID-19 outbreak since April 3.

“Through infection control measures, we have been able to manage the outbreak, and currently have four cases on the unit related to this outbreak,” spokesperson Honorata Bittner released in a statement. “There is no evidence to suggest this is an outbreak caused by a variant of concern.”

Bittner said the hospital is working closely with staff, patients and family to keep everyone informed.

“We are working with clinical teams to adjust staffing levels on the unit as needed,” Bittner said. “The hospital has strict infection prevention and control protocols in place to keep everyone safe. We continue to monitor patients for symptoms of COVID-19.”

Any patient who develops symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 will be isolated and tested.

Staff who may have been exposed have been contacted and informed of appropriate measures to take.

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