‘We’re flattening the curve,’ says Ford as Ontario COVID-19 average rises to 600 new cases per day

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Premier Doug Ford touts Ontario’s ‘robust’ testing record, which has now surpassed four million tests, just days after eliminating walk-in testing in favor of a walk-in system .”We have eliminated the long lines,” Ford said at a press conference on Tuesday, saying the province cleared its 40 percent testing backlog by breaking appointments for a day and by limiting testing for asymptomatic people.

The premier added that those who need an appointment will get one – despite reports of extremely long wait times to book a test in some areas as the province moves from physical to virtual lines .

Ford also responded to questions about the confusion around social gathering rules ahead of the Thanksgiving long weekend.

“I’ll be very frank, I hear the opposite,” he said when asked what some see as a mixed message. “We flatten the curve and we put the protocols in place. ”

Ontario currently has a seven-day average of 611 cases per day, up sharply from a seven-day average of less than 100 cases per day in early August.

Ford also confirmed on Tuesday that he had seen data showing that some low-income neighborhoods in Toronto face a 10% positivity rate, including in his own riding. The city currently displays an average rage of positivity of less than 3%.

“This is very disturbing… These are neighborhoods and areas that we already knew were at increased risk,” said Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Barbara Yaffe. Yaffe added that there is a need not only to increase targeted messaging and access to testing in these areas, but also for additional case tracking.

The prime minister also told reporters his family would limit their Thanksgiving gathering to 10 people, advising people to “hang on to hugs and kisses.”

Pressed to clarify his remarks, Ford stressed that gatherings should be limited to members of a person’s household. Dr Yaffe highlighted this message, saying gatherings should be limited to a single household as much as possible, with exceptions only for one-person households to join a larger one.

Still, when asked who exactly will attend his Thanksgiving dinner, Ford couldn’t confirm whether family members not living with him would be in attendance and instead asked to follow up with the CBC reporter. Mike Crawley later with details.

WATCH | Limit Thanksgiving gatherings to your own homes, says Ontario’s health official:

Residents of Ontario are advised to limit this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations to their own household, except for singles who may be joining another household, says Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Medical Officer of Health in chief associate of Ontario. 0:58

Ontario reported another 548 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as the province’s appointment-only screening plan officially went into effect.

Almost two-thirds of new cases are in the Greater Toronto Area, including 201 in Toronto, 90 in Peel Region and 56 in York Region. Ottawa has also confirmed 62 other infections of the novel coronavirus.

Other public health units that have seen double-digit increases include:

  • Halton Region: 30
  • Region of Waterloo: 21
  • Niagara Region: 17
  • Hamilton: 15
  • Eastern Ontario: 13
  • Durham Region: 12
  • Simcoe Muskoka 10

Health Minister Christine Elliott said about 61% of new cases in today’s update are in people under the age of 40.

Seventy-four of the cases are school-related, including 41 students, 10 staff and 23 people classified as “unidentified individuals”. A total of 347 publicly funded Ontario schools, or just over 7%, have now reported at least one case of COVID-19 in students or staff.

The province’s laboratory network has processed more than 42,000 test samples for the novel coronavirus, while the backlog stands at 55,483.

Ontario recently announced that it will end screening for asymptomatic people at its 153 COVID-19 assessment centers, instead switching to an appointment-only model for people with symptoms of the disease. The decision was made, in part, to help laboratories eliminate the backlog of test samples, which, at its highest, has grown to more than 92,000.

Ontario sends COVID-19 tests to United States for treatment

Meanwhile, Ontario is sending COVID-19 tests to the United States for processing as it struggles to clear its backlog of tests.

The government says its work to increase lab capacity includes the use of third-party vendors, including Quest Diagnostics, which is in the U.S. Yesterday Premier Doug Ford said a shortage of lab technicians and of chemicals needed to process the tests was pushing Ontario to capacity.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the need to send tests to the United States shows the province is scrambling to respond to the second wave of the pandemic.

The last day for drop-in testing in the province was Saturday. Health experts have warned that the change could lead to an artificially low number of new daily cases later this week.

The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 has continued to rise steadily and is now 192, 16 more than in yesterday’s report. Forty-one patients are being treated in intensive care units, while 26 are on ventilators.

Meanwhile, the official COVID-19 death toll in the province has increased by seven to 2,987.

Ontario has now recorded a total of 55,362 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of these, about 84.7% are resolved. Another 546 were marked resolved in today’s report.

There are currently some 5,469 confirmed and active cases of the disease across the province, a slight drop from yesterday, but still a figure that has not been seen since the end of April.

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