Ontario opens recalls for 18+ starting Monday, announces new capacity limits

Ontario said on Wednesday it was speeding up the rollout of its COVID-19 booster shots amid fears surrounding the Omicron variant, with all people 18 years of age or older being eligible to reserve their third dose of the vaccine starting Monday. .

The province is also shortening the wait interval before receiving a booster from six months to three months after a second dose and is launching a holiday testing blitz with free rapid antigen testing available from Wednesday on pop sites. -up, including malls and libraries. , as well as some LCBO stores.

“Nothing is more important than putting these third blows in the arms,” ​​Ford said at a press conference Wednesday.

WATCH | Ontario “Urgently Expands Eligibility” for COVID-19 Booster Injections: Premier:

Ontario “Urgently Expands Eligibility” for COVID-19 Booster Injections: Premier

Doug Ford announced Wednesday that all Ontarians 18 years of age or older will be able to reserve their third dose of the vaccine starting Monday. 0:59

Starting Wednesday, anyone 50 or older who has already booked their third dose within the prescribed six-month interval can now make a new appointment for three months after their second dose.

The province says large companies will help run workplace and community clinics and that some establishments, such as pharmacies, may start offering walk-in reminders to anyone 18 and older as of this Friday.

You can find more details on the Ontario Holiday Trial Blitz here.

Capacity limits for theaters, museums

Capacity limits are also tightened to 50 percent for indoor venues that could normally hold 1,000 people or more.

These places include:

  • Entertainment facilities.
  • Meeting and event spaces.
  • Sports venues.
  • Theaters.
  • Museums.
  • Galleries.
  • Casino.
  • Bingo halls.

The restrictions come into effect Saturday at 12:01 am ET.

When asked if new limits might come for restaurants and bars, Ford said “everything is on the table” but “locking yourself in is not the answer”.

Ontario restaurants and bars do not face new capacity limits, unlike some larger venues such as museums and theaters. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

The restaurants do “an incredible job,” he said.

“There is a big difference between a restaurant and 20,000 people in an arena.”

Wednesday’s announcement did not include any new restrictions for private gatherings or for retail establishments, such as shopping malls.

1,808 cases reported Wednesday

The expansion of the recall was announced the same day Ontario reported 1,808 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest daily number since the end of May.

Meanwhile, preparations for an accelerated deployment of the COVID-19 booster dose are already underway in parts of Ontario.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the city’s Emergency Operations Center is stepping up efforts to focus on booster vaccinations amid the community spread of the variant.

“We are working hand in hand to rapidly increase first, second and third dose capacity for all eligible residents of Ottawa,” Watson wrote on Twitter.

City public health staff have been urged to “pause” routine work to help with vaccinations in light of the threat of the infectious variant, according to Watson’s post. Several other public health units are doing the same.

Calls to postpone non-urgent procedures

The president of a professional group representing family physicians in the province also called on members to postpone elective procedures so they can join the vaccination effort.

In an open letter, Ontario College of Family Physicians President Liz Muggah advised members to get in touch with local public health units to see how they can help with vaccination clinics. She also recommended that they contact patients eligible for the booster or vaccinate people in their offices when possible.

“Family physicians are called upon to be part of a concerted effort by the health care system,” she wrote in her letter on Tuesday.

She said the province’s chief medical officer made similar requests to public health units, pharmacies and hospitals.

Muggah said booster shots for people aged 50 and over are the priority for the next two weeks, based on current evidence for the effectiveness of Omicron vaccine boosters, and that such an effort will require more than 200,000 vaccines administered daily in the province.

Public health units collectively administered 108,579 booster doses on Tuesday.

Public health units called for action on Omicron

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, there were growing calls for the province to expand access to boosters to protect against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Moore said the variant will soon become dominant and all cases should be treated as Omicron in the future. A new report from Public Health Ontario found that about 80 percent of all new cases on December 13 were caused by Omicron.

A group representing public health units and local boards of health in Ontario had written to Elliott asking for provincial strategies to tackle Omicron, including public health restrictions if needed and “clear public messages on the issue. seriousness of the situation ”.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore said all cases of COVID-19 in Ontario should be treated as Omicron in the future. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Tuesday’s letter from the Association of Local Public Health Agencies said province-wide restrictions will be needed to deal with Omicron, suggesting capacity limits at workplaces and gatherings and demanding a evidence of vaccination in more settings.

He also called for leadership in communicating the situation to the public, noting that after a drop in cases this fall, people’s support for simple public health measures is waning, with “very little understanding of the threat. which suddenly presents itself to us “.

“Even before the emergence of the Omicron variant, many parts of Ontario’s health care system, including public health units and hospitals, were reaching the limits of their capacity to respond to COVID-19,” the report says. letter.

Intensive care admissions remain stable

Wednesday’s case count marks a 79% jump from Wednesday last week.

The seven-day average rose to 1,514, a 50% increase from the same period last week. The metric is about to double every 12 days or so.

As cases increase rapidly, the burden on hospitals has remained relatively stable. As of Tuesday, 357 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospital, up from 333 last Wednesday.

In addition, 154 patients were being treated for COVID-related illnesses in intensive care units, up from 155 at the same time last week.

Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has warned that hospital admissions are a lagging indicator and that an increase in the number of new cases will inevitably put increased pressure on hospitals. The extent of this tension, however, is not yet clear.

In its most recent modeling, the group said there could be between 250 and 400 COVID patients in intensive care units by the end of January. But that modeling didn’t fully take into account how Omicron’s presence might make a difference in the province.

For its part, the provincial government has said that up to 300 COVID-19 patients could be safely admitted to intensive care before urgent non-COVID-19 care is postponed.

Wednesday’s updated figures come after the government on Tuesday announced stricter screening and vaccination policies for long-term care facilities, including that all visitors – with a few exceptions – must have two doses to enter in a house.

In the meantime, here are some other indicators and key figures of the pandemic of Daily provincial update from the Ministry of Health:

Completed tests: 44,726, with a positivity rate of 6%.

Active cases: 12 666.

Death: Nine, pushing the official balance sheet to 10,093.

Tune in to CBC The National tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC News Network, 10 p.m. on CBC Television and CBC Gem for a special full edition on COVID-19 and the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Canada and around the world.

Hosts Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang will be joined by doctors and health experts throughout the program to answer your questions:

  • What do you need to know to protect yourself and those around you?
  • Should you change your vacation plans?
  • What is safe and what is not?

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