Boosters coming

Ontario reports 959 new COVID-19 cases, 469 in the unvaccinated as Province announces booster plans

Ontario reported 959 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, an increase from the 780 cases reported Wednesday; the cumulative provincial case count now stands at 620,229. The province also reported eight more deaths (up from the 6 deaths reported the previous day), with a cumulative provincial total of 10,012 deaths to date.

According to Health Minister Christine Elliott, of the 959 new cases recorded, 446 were unvaccinated people, 23 were partially vaccinated, 429 were fully vaccinated, and for 61 people the vaccination status was unknown.

From Thursday’s new cases, 118 cases were recorded in Toronto, 91 in Windsor-Essex, 75 each in Peel Region and Simcoe Muskoka, 59 in Ottawa, and 53 in York Region.

Vaccinations and hospitalizations in Ontario

As of Thursday morning, 23,045,461 vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario; 90.0% of Ontarians 12+ have received one dose and 87.2% have two doses.

As for hospitalizations, 291 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 (241 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 50 are fully vaccinated). A total of 155 people are in ICU due to COVID-19 (129 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 26 are fully vaccinated). There are 85 patients in ICU on a ventilator due to COVID-related critical illnesses.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, is expected to announce on Thursday afternoon that the province will lower the age of eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to individuals aged 50 and older. This will likely begin by mid-December.

Currently, people 70 and older are eligible for a booster, as well as healthcare workers/essential caregivers in congregate settings, those who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of Janssen, and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.

The decision is being made in the wake of the discovery of the new Omicron variant. Earlier this week, Ontario confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria.

At a press conference on Monday, Moore noted that the province is investigating other cases, and he wouldn’t be surprised if they found more in Ontario, due to the province’s “very robust surveillance system.” He added that an accelerated third dose strategy would be one of the measures the province could introduce to fight the Omicron variant.

COVID-19 travel restrictions to and from Canada

On Monday, the federal government announced new rules requiring incoming air travellers from all countries (except the U.S.) to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, whether they’re vaccinated or not. These passengers will have to quarantine until their test results come back negative.

Any travellers (including Canadians) coming to Canada must also pass a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure.

Meanwhile, as of next week, the U.S. government announced that Canadians (and other foreign travellers) who travel to the U.S. by air will need to get a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departure. The White House will no longer allow the current 72-hour testing window for fully vaccinated travelers; the new measures are aimed to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant. There was no news as to whether this rule applies to the land borders.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario news and here for where you could get rapid COVID-19 tests in Toronto (including a new drive-thru option).

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO