Ontario reported 3,436 more cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as vaccine eligibility opened for all residents 18 years of age or older in hotspots.
Adults living in 114 designated postal codes identified as hotspots were able to start booking appointments as of this morning, although some on social media reported long waits or technical difficulties with the regional reservation site.
Minutes after reservations opened at 8 a.m. ET, the site showed an estimated wait of more than an hour, with tens of thousands of users in the queue. Dr. David Williams, the county’s chief medical officer for health, told reporters that more than 130,000 appointments had been booked through the site on Monday.
This week and next day, the county will send half of its vaccine supplies to hotspots, based in part on recommendations from the government’s scientific advisers.
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Adults in some neighborhoods with hotspots have already managed to schedule vaccinations, but not through the county online reservation portal.
Eligibility expands further across Ontario on Thursday, when online reservations open through the government portal for residents 50 and over. People with high-risk health conditions and some groups of people who cannot work from home will also become eligible.
Ontario said it expects everyone 18 and over will be able to book a vaccine by the end of May.
Williams cautioned that it could take up to three weeks for people to get their first dose to build up immunity – and it often takes longer in older individuals.
“We have seen people come back positively within five to seven days,” he said, reminding Ontario residents to keep up with public health measures such as physical distancing and wearing masks even after receiving vaccinations.
Williams also hinted at the possibility of updating the county’s position on outdoor gatherings, which have been banned between people from separate families under the current stay-at-home order.
He added, “We will get more updates on external activities.” It was not clear if that meant the county was considering easing restrictions on small outdoor gatherings.
Asked if May 20 was still a realistic date for easing stay-at-home measures, Williams said he believes Ontario needs to vaccinate more than 40 percent of its population if it is to ease restrictions.
“A lot of people are discussing it. We are trying to look into it as much as possible,” he said, but he could not provide details.
“We need to get out of this third wave,” he said.
‘Short change all the time’
But at least one of the hardest-hit areas in the Toronto area is not accepting online reservations from adults age 18 and over who live in hotspots.
There are simply not enough supplies to support the move to allow all adults at 114 district hotspots in the county to book their vaccines, says York District Health Officer Dr. Karim Korji. Three clinics in the York area closed early Monday due to what Corgi said were shortages.
“It looks like we haven’t changed a lot all the time,” Corgi told CBC News, saying he was calling for an increase in York’s allocation to 80,000 from 50,000.
“The York area, along with Bell and Toronto, has the highest number of cases on a daily basis in GTA,” said Corgi. In the meantime, he said, it is ranked ninth on the list in terms of per capita vaccinations.
Corgi also objected to the way the hotspots have been identified, saying the county appears to be counting the cumulative cases starting at the start of the pandemic – as well as counting infections in long-term care homes whose residents in general have already been vaccinated – rather than focusing specifically on infections in the wave. The third.
Additionally, he said, the county relied on postal codes that were in effect in 2016, rather than the current ones.
Corgi added that he has contacted the county about his concerns, but has not yet received any response.
“It seems that there is no appetite to correct these things,” he said.
“For York residents, I would like to say that I am very sorry that we had to prioritize distributing vaccines to the 35+ groups in hotspots,” he said. “When we can, we’ll reach 18 years or older.”
Millions are expected in May
Public health units collectively gave 53,880 doses of vaccines yesterday, the lowest number in a single day since April 5. The drop may be partly due to a short supply of AstraZeneca doses available in pharmacies, which was expected over the weekend.
Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force said last week that while the federal government is working to secure more doses of AstraZeneca, it remains unclear when or how much it might actually reach the province.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, a total of 5,378,249 people had received at least one dose, while 375,905 had received both shots.
Ontario has used just over 95 percent of the 5,644,975 doses of vaccines it has received so far.
Millions of more doses of Pfizer and Modern are due to arrive in May, including 786,240 this week.
The county also expects the 300,000 doses the federal government expects from Johnson & Johnson to drop in the coming weeks. Staff members said they haven’t heard exactly how much Ontario will get from a single dose of vaccine, but based on per capita vaccine availability, that should be around 116,000.
The expected acceleration of the vaccination campaign comes as many of the district hospitals face a massive demand for critical care for COVID-19 patients.
As of yesterday, there were 889 people with COVID-related illnesses receiving treatment in intensive care units, according to the Ministry of Health, and 611 people were using ventilators.
Ontario Critical Care Services, a government agency that does a daily count of patients in critical care, said that another 54 people with COVID-19 were admitted to intensive care units yesterday. The agency stated that patients suffering from the disease spend an average of 11.4 days in intensive care, and their average age is currently around 62.
The total number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals decreased to 1925 from 1961, but the ministry said that about 10 percent of hospitals did not provide data for their daily counts. The ministry said that figure is likely to rise again with “increased compliance.”
Watch | Professionals say ICUs are at a breaking point:
16 more deaths linked to COVID
New cases reported in today’s county report include:
- 985 in Toronto.
- 714 in the Bell District.
- 351 in the York area.
- 271 in the Durham area.
- 194 in Hamilton.
- 159 in the Halton area.
- 130 in Ottawa.
- 127 Niagara District.
- 106 in the Waterloo area.
- 101 in Simcoe Muskoka.
The infection comes as labs have completed 33,179 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and Ontario Public Health has recorded a provincial positive rate of 9.7 percent. Reported test levels are usually at their lowest on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the pandemic.
While daily positivity rates fluctuate based in part on the number of tests processed, the seven-day average for the past seven days has been around 8.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the average daily cases for seven days decreased to 3,577. This indicator has been trending lower since its peak at 4,370 on April 17th.
The Scientific Advisory Table for COVID-19 in Ontario said that as of the end of April, around 93 per cent of all new infections in the province were caused by variants of concern, particularly the variant B117 that was first identified in the UK.
The Ministry of Health also reported 16 more deaths from people infected with COVID-19, raising the official toll to 8118. The average death toll for seven days is 26.1, down from the highest in the third wave of nearly 30.
More to track …
Bulletin Observer Health
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