The first signs of improvement appear to be emerging in Toronto’s fight against COVID-19, the city’s medical officer of health said on Wednesday.
“I compare him to a patient reclassified from critical to serious condition. It’s a better condition, but far from the best, ”said Dr Eileen de Villa, speaking during a city hall COVID-19 update.
De Villa reported 991 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. In all, 1,162 people are hospitalized; 281 people are in intensive care.
She said figures for the number of cases over the past few days suggest a leveling off, albeit at a level that remains high and continues to cause serious illness and death.
The effective reproduction rate is currently 0.94, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, which means that every person infected with the virus transmits it to just under one other person.
“While any improvement is welcome news, we have to greet this improvement with caution,” said de Villa.
COVID-19 lab tests in Toronto are at 12.3% positivity, while the goal is to keep the positivity rate below 3%.
Vaccine supply remains an issue, officials said, with Mayor John Tory again calling on the province to provide more vaccines to Toronto, a recognized hot spot.
“We have tremendous additional capacity to allow us to do more now in our clinics if we had increased vaccine supply further,” Tory said. “The more doses of vaccine we receive and the more predictable these shipments are, the more we can maximize the capacity of our team in Toronto.”
More than 1.2 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in Toronto, which has a population of nearly three million people. Two doses are needed to obtain maximum efficacy from the vaccine.
The city’s mass immunization clinics are almost fully booked in June, depending on how much vaccine is currently available, according to Chief Matthew Pegg, who is leading the city’s emergency response to COVID-19 and the group of work on vaccines.
As of Monday, when vaccine eligibility was expanded to include anyone 18 and over living in a red light district, 223,817 people have made appointments at city-run immunization clinics.
On Thursday morning, another 60,000 vaccination appointments in municipal clinics will be available through the provincial reservation system, for appointments between June 7 and 13.
Also from Thursday morning, people aged 50 to 54 will be allowed to book in city clinics, as well as employees unable to work from home, including teachers, school daycare staff, drivers. bus and administrative staff; law enforcement officers, including police and firefighters; food manufacturing and distribution workers; agricultural and agricultural workers, workers in funeral services, crematoria and cemeteries, and those working in foster families and licensed day care centers who have not yet been vaccinated.
Pegg said the 60,000 additional appointments have been made to accommodate as many people who become eligible for vaccines as possible, depending on the vaccine supply.
“Obviously, as we’ve said throughout, we’re limited by the availability of vaccines,” Pegg said. “If an additional vaccine does eventually become available to us in the city of Toronto, we are immediately ready to expand.”
Health Canada cleared the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older on Wednesday, but de Villa said it was too early to say whether it would be possible to get them vaccinated in time for September.
Students in Toronto schools have been learning remotely since April 7.
“We have just received the notification that Health Canada has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for young people between the ages of 12 and 15, which is great news,” said de Villa. “We should soon hear from our provincial counterparts what the details of administering the vaccine in Ontario will look like. We are certainly looking forward to participating in this vaccination campaign once we have some details. “
She urged people to sign up for the first vaccine that would become available to them, and stressed that the risk of blood clot complications from the AstraZeneca vaccine remains low – around one in 100,000 or one in 250,000 vaccines, according to estimates.
She pointed out that in the UK, more than 22 million doses of AstraZeneca have been administered, with 209 cases of vaccine-related blood clots, a rate of 9.3 cases per million doses.
More than 1.7 million doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in Canada and the risk of side effects from blood clots remains rare, she said.
“The chances of contracting COVID-19 without the protection of a vaccination are much greater than the risk of a serious complication from the vaccination,” de Villa said.
Tory also announced that ActiveTO road closures would be in place again this weekend, along parts of Lakeshore Boulevard East and Bayview Avenue. He said the city is also planning to close Lakeshore Boulevard West the following weekend – more details will be released early next week.
The following closures will be in place from Saturday, May 8 at 6 a.m. to Sunday, May 9 at 9 p.m.:
Bayview Avenue between Front Street East and Rosedale Valley Road, as well as River Street between Bayview Avenue and Spruce Street; Lakeshore Boulevard East (eastbound lanes only), between Leslie Street and Woodbine Avenue, and roads through High Park will be closed to traffic from Friday around 11 p.m. until Monday around 7 a.m.
The roads will be open to cyclists and pedestrians, and the city reminds residents to only do this with members of their own household, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The city also plans to close Allen Road starting June 6, and staff are examining the possibility of road closures along Black Creek Drive and roads in Exhibition Place.