Ontario COVID-19 rates showing improvement, unsure if it’s a trend: Yaffe John Marchesan

Ontario’s COVID-19 numbers are showing improvement, but it’s too soon to say if that’s the start of a downward trend, one of the province’s top doctors said Thursday.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, said the provincial case rate has started to decline for the first time since November – sitting now at 145.4 cases per 100,000 people – although that figure is still high.

The average per cent positivity rate on COVID-19 tests has also dropped – down to 5.3 per cent from 6.3 per cent last week – and 26 of the province’s 34 public health units have seen case rates decline, the government said.

“We’re seeing some improvement,” Yaffe said. “But we do need to see more data to determine if those decreasing rates are a real trend.”

The positive numbers come a week after Premier Doug Ford’s government imposed a state of emergency and issued a stay-at-home order to bring soaring rates of COVID-19 under control.

Schools throughout much of southern Ontario remain closed for in-person learning because of high community transmission and the government has not provided a timeline for a return to class.

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Yaffe warned that there are still 1,533 people in hospital with COVID-19 across the province and 388 in intensive care units.

The province is also reporting 15 cases of the so-called U.K. variant of the COVID-19 virus, with four that have no travel history, indicating there could be community spread of the more contagious strain.

“We do certainly expect to see more as our laboratories test for this, and for other variants,” she said.

Yaffe also noted that a yet-to-be identified variant has been found in six cases at a Barrie, Ont., nursing home where 122 residents and 69 staff have been infected. Nineteen residents have died.

She said the province is working with the local health unit to identify the variant and take action to halt the outbreak at Roberta Place.

“We know there is a mutation in there … that’s associated with increased transmissibility, about 56 per cent more transmissible,” she said. “We don’t know which mutant it is.”

Ontario reported 2,632 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 46 more deaths linked to the virus.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford continued to express frustration at COVID-19 vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer amid a production slowdown at the company.

“It’s absolutely critical that Pfizer steps up to the plate and not leaves us behind the eight ball, which they have,” he said Thursday.

Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just 171,093 doses this week and nothing the next week.

The federal government and Pfizer have said shipments of vaccine are expected to get back to normal levels in late February and early March.

Canada’s doses of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine are coming from a factory in Belgium that is being upgraded to ramp up production in the coming months.

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