Ontario’s death count from COVID-19 is returning to levels not seen since the first wave last spring after almost two months of record highs in new cases.
The 32 fatalities reported Wednesday as the province recorded 1,417 new infections marked the third day in five with deaths above 20. Until Nov. 2, most days saw deaths in the single digits.
In the last seven days, 140 Ontarians — most of them elderly and in nursing homes — have died from the virus, a 50 per cent increase from 93 in the previous seven days.
Health Minister Christine Elliott came under fire in the legislature’s daily question period for not mentioning deaths in her morning Twitter updates on case counts before full statistics are released on the ministry’s website.
“I have respect for the people who have passed away. I don’t think that’s a matter we should be tweeting,” replied Elliott, who also does not signal when a record in cases has been reached.
Ontario’s all-time high for daily COVID-19 deaths was 86 on April 30, at the peak of the first wave.
Seventeen of the deaths reported Wednesday were in nursing homes, where another 69 residents and 21 staff became infected with COVID-19, continuing what has been a steady climb in infections that have fuelled 100 outbreaks in long-term care.
The 1,417 new cases across the province were up almost 200 from the previous day, but short of the record 1,581 reported on Saturday.
With most infections in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area that is in the red zone of public health measures (except Durham), the seven-day provincial average of new infections is 1,422, slightly below an all-time high set two days ago.
New cases in Peel Region outnumbered those in much larger Toronto by 463 to 410, with 178 in York, 63 in Halton, 46 in Hamilton and 40 in Durham.
Provincial health officials are considering options for new restrictions following Premier Doug Ford’s warning last Friday that Ontario is “staring down the barrel of another lockdown.”
Five of the province’s 34 regional health units reported no new cases: Peterborough, Hastings-Prince Edward, Renfrew County, Algoma and Timiskaming.
A day after signalling parents can expect details soon on plans for schools that could involve an extended Christmas break, Education Minister Stephen Lecce noted 86 per cent of schools remain free of COVID-19.
There were 109 new cases in the province’s 4,828 schools, with 670 of them reporting infections and three closed for outbreaks, an increase of two from the previous day.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 rose by six to 535 people with 127 requiring intensive care, unchanged from the previous day, and three more ICU patients on ventilators, raising that total to 78.
That means just over 60 per cent of intensive care patients need mechanical help to breathe. Two months ago, that figure was 50 per cent.