With Ontario preparing to move back into stay-at-home mode, some good news on the vaccination front: The Province is moving to the second phase of its vaccine rollout, meaning Simcoe/Muskoka residents 60 and over can start receiving the virus-fighting jab.
Following an announcement yesterday from the Province about the second phase, the Simcoe/Muskoka District Health Unit tweeted that the 60-and-over crowd can begin booking their appointments through Ontario’s online portal. The site provides two booking options: first, through the Ontario call centre, and the second from a participating pharmacy.
If going the pharmacy route, you will be getting the AstraZeneca shot. The Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are available through the call centre. A valid health card is needed to book through the call centre, and a health card or other form of government-issued identification for the pharmacy shot.
The unit says it is reviewing details of the Province’s announcement, and will update its website soon. Across Simcoe/Muskoka, the health unit is reporting 116 new cases for the current week. There were 444 new cases reported last week (week of March 28), 44 per cent higher than the 308 cases reported for the week of March 21.
“On March 15, Ontario launched its provincial booking system and call centre to support COVID-19 vaccination appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics,” the Province announced yesterday.
“The system has already supported the immunization of other groups identified in Phase Two, including individuals aged 70 and over, with many public health units using the provincial booking system to offer appointments to individuals aged 60 and over beginning on April 7, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. Public health units that are currently not on the provincial booking system and wish to use the system will continue to be onboarded throughout the month.”
The Province will also be focusing vaccination efforts on ‘hot spot’ areas that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. Its goal is to have more than nine million Ontarians receive a first jab between April and the end of June.
Premier Doug Ford expected to announce new restrictions
Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference today at 2 p.m., and it is being reported that he will announce a new stay-at-home order in response to increasing COVID-19 cases and the impact that is having on hospital intensive care units (ICUs). It’s anticipated the new restrictions will take hold 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, and remain in place for at least a month.
If reports are accurate, all non-essential retail stores will close with curb-side pickup only; stores that sell groceries will remain only, but only for the purchase of grocery items. Garden centres are also expected to remain open, according to reports.
The anticipated order arrives as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel maintain that the current shutdown level is not enough to curb the growth of the virus, particularly the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom. Last week Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 science table said it was not possible to vaccinate our way out of the third wave.
“This is the challenge of the new variants. Whole families are now showing up in intensive care. It used to be that one family member, often an older parent or grandparent, would be in an intensive care unit while other members of the family would have caught a much milder form of the disease, if at all,” he said.
“But with the new variants which are both more contagious and more dangerous, we are seeing situations where whole families end up in intensive care, all at the same time. This gets much more challenging because of the pressure that is already hitting our intensive care units. Even as people are fighting for their lives, we have to separate families. Ambulances and helicopters are moving them to other regions that have a spare bed.”
The Province logged another 3,065 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, 2,938 on Monday, 3,041 Sunday, 3009 on Saturday, and 3,089 on Friday. The seven-day rolling average of new cases sits at 2,862, while a week ago it was 2,207. The positivity rate jumped to 8.9 on Tuesday, up from 7.8 the day before. According to the World Health Organization, the positivity rate should be below five percent for at least two weeks for restrictions to be eased/avoided.
Record number of patients being treated in ICUs for COVID-19
The Ministry of Health reports that 1,162 people are battling the virus in Ontario hospitals, with a record 510 being treated in ICUs, of which 310 are on ventilators.
Across Simcoe/Muskoka, the health unit is reporting:
• 1,084 local cases have been tested positive for the COVID-19 variant of concern UK B.1.1.7 (UK), 18 cases have tested positive for the P.1 variant of concern (Brazil), one case has tested positive for the B.1.351 variant of concern (South Africa), and an additional 374 cases have screened positive (awaiting confirmatory testing).
• There have been 116 new cases reported to the health unit for the current week. There were 444 new cases reported to the health unit last week (week of March 28th), which was 44 per cent higher than the 308 cases reported for the week of March 21.
• More than 109,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Simcoe Muskoka. This includes over 18,000 individuals who have received both of the required doses of the vaccine.
• In March, 12 Simcoe Muskoka residents died from COVID-19. There has been one COVID-19 death so far in April.
• There are currently four active school outbreaks: W.H. Day Public School in Bradford, Good Shepherd Catholic School in Barrie, Boyne River Public School in Alliston and Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Bradford.
• As of March 28, the reproductive rate (Rt) stood at 1.5 percent, with the positivity rate being 4.8.
“The effective reproductive number for a given period of time or Rt is the average number of secondary cases that a new case will infect. If Rt is greater than one it indicates that the spread of COVID-19 in Simcoe Muskoka is growing, and if Rt is less than one, the spread of COVID-19 is slowing and containment/mitigation efforts may be working to keep the outbreak under control,” explains the unit