Your COVID-19 Summary of Key Developments for Nov. 6th – Shifts in Regional Classifications

Dear OPHA Members,

Here’s your summary of the key announcements and messages conveyed on Friday. November 6th by our political and public health leaders related to COVID-19.

 At the provincial level:

  • Premier Ford reclassified certain regions under the province’s new tiered, colour-coded COVID-19 response framework.
  • Peel Region will move out of the modified Stage 2 on November 7th to the red-control level, which means indoor dining will once again be permitted, with capacity limits; Eastern Ontario will move to yellow-protect level because of improving public health trends. Toronto will remain in the modified Stage 2 for another week, until November 14th.
  • Health Minister Elliott announced $45M to create up to 254 more beds in Ottawa, including $16M to build a temporary ambulatory offload space at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.
  • When asked by the media about the lack of new funding for public health units in Budget 2020, the Premier referred the question to Finance Minister Phillips who referenced past investments.

At the federal level, Prime Minister Trudeau and Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Bains announced $115M to extend the Innovation Assistance Program to ensure Canadian technology and research stays in Canada; and $20M in research infrastructure support for equipment and tools.

More details are included below along with an update on cases in Ontario and across Canada

Provincial Developments:

Public Health Unit Region Classifications:

On Saturday, November 7th, under the province’s new COVID-19 colour-coded and tiered response framework public health unit regions will be moved to the following levels:

  • Lockdown: No public health unit regions.
  • Red-Control: Peel Regional Health Unit.
  • Orange-Restrict: Ottawa Public Health; and York Region Public Health.
  • Yellow-Protect: Brant County Health Unit; City of Hamilton Public Health Services; Durham Region Health Department; Eastern Ontario Health Unit; Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit; Halton Region Public Health; Niagara Region Public Health; Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services; Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit; and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
  • Green-Prevent: The remaining public health unit regions are included in this level.
  • At the request of the local Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health will remain in a modified Stage 2 until November 14th.
  • While the Premier and Health Minister spoke about the number of cases in Brampton increasing “quite sharply” with a positivity rate of about 11 per cent, under the region’s red-control classification system indoor dining and gyms can re-open but with strict limitations on numbers who can attend.
  • Reaction to this new system continues to be mixed with some critics concerned that the thresholds for introducing restrictive measures is too high and may negatively impact the province’s ability to control the spread of COVID-19.

Overdose Crisis:

  • Premier Ford dismissed calls from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health to decriminalize simple drug possession as a mean to address the severe impacts of the overdose crisis during the pandemic. The Premier said he’s “absolutely not” in favour of legalizing small quantities of “serious drugs that can kill people,” such as cocaine and heroin. Health Minister Elliott agreed saying “we want to get people off drugs, not take more.”
  • Premier Ford pointed to recent investments in a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy, while Health Minister Elliott noted the number of supervised consumption and treatment sites available right now to support people with addictions.

Federal Developments:

Updated COVID-19 Guidelines on Risk of Airborne Spread:

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada updated its guidance this week flagging the risk of transmission from aerosols or microscopic airborne particles.
  • The guidance on how COVID-19 spread now details that “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks.”
  • Dr. Tam advised using three-layer masks in closed or crowded spaces and noted that while “there is recognition that droplets of different sizes will play a role, how much or how important a role is played by the smaller-sized droplets, or the aerosols, still remains an area of research.”

COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy:

  • Dr. Tam said she is “cautiously optimistic” that safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will be available in the first quarter of 2021. Prime Minister Trudeau noted that the “federal government has moved forward on procuring access to a large suite of different potential vaccines from around the world,” emphasizing that Canada has “one of the best potential vaccine portfolios of any of our peer countries right now.”
  • Dr. Tam said she received preliminary guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on the key populations that should be considered for early COVID-19 vaccination. This priority population groups include: those over 70, people who are at risk of severe outcomes; workers essential to maintaining the pandemic response (e.g. health care professionals) or other essential services for the functioning of society (e.g. police, fire fighters, grocery store workers); and people whose living or working conditions put them at elevated risk of infection and its disproportionate consequences, including Indigenous communities.

National Public Health Measures:

  • When asked if Health Canada would consider issuing national public health measures or recommendations, Dr. Tam said “our role has been to provide guidance [and] to recognize that it’s the provinces and territories that implement guidance… and they are taking into account their local epidemiologies and particular capacities and circumstances.”

We will continue to monitor and report on key COVID-19 and other provincial and federal developments to help our members stay informed. Stay well!

Pegeen and Faduma

Details and Links to Other Announcements:

  • Healthcare Support:$45M to create up to 254 more beds in hospitals and alternative health facilities in Ottawa; $18M to address ambulance offload times; $16M investment in a new Emergency Department Ambulance Offload Medicine Transition Unit facility at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus; and $1.5M to four Ottawa area hospitals to hire frontline staff.
  • Employment StatisticsEmployment increased over each of the last five months with 30,600 new jobs in October. Since June, 868,600 jobs have been created leading to the gradual stabilization of the provincial economy.
  • Innovation Assistance Programthe National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program’s Innovation Assistance Program was extended through $155M in federal funding.
  • Project Purifythe Canada Border Services Agency, Health Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are combatting unauthorized or counterfeit COVID-19-related goods entering Canada through British Columbia.
  • Food Security: Food Banks Canada has launched through $2.3M in federal funding the Rural and Northern Capacity Fund to address food insecurity in underserved communities.
  • 2022 Valour Games: Ontario is committing $3M to support the Valour Games, a new, national multi-sport competition for wounded, ill and injured military personnel and veterans.

Trends and Cases in Ontario, Canada and First Nations on Reserve:

Cases Among First Nations on Reserve:

As of November 5th, Indigenous Services Canada was aware of these confirmed cases of COVID-19 for First Nations communities:

  • 1,728 confirmed positive COVID-19
  • 542 active cases
  • 94 hospitalizations
  • 1,171 recovered cases
  • 15 deaths

 Cases in Ontario: (November 6th as of 10:30am)

  • Total number of cases: 81,693; an increase of 1,003
  • The majority of newly confirmed cases are concentrated in three public health units (e.g. 300 new cases in Toronto, 280 in Peel Region and 125 in York Region)
  • Resolved: 70,086 (85.8%); an increase of 949
  • Deaths: sadly, 3,209 people have died; an increase of 14
  • Hospitalized: 380 people were hospitalized; 86 were in intensive care and of those, 49 were on a ventilator;
  • Long-term care homes (according to iPHIS): 86 active outbreaks; 521 confirmed cases in residents; 319 confirmed cases in staff; 1,986 deaths among residents and 8 among staff;
  • Lab testing: 5,305,836 completed; 41,268 were completed Thursday, up from 35,754 tests reported on Wednesday;while the backlog of tests waiting to be completed increased to 47,074 from 41,787;
  • As of Friday, 85 more individuals in schools tested positive from COVID-19, 914 cases within the last fourteen days and 1,714 cases reported more than fourteen days ago resulting in a cumulative total of 2,628 cases. 580 schools have reported a case and one school has closed.

 Cases in Canada: (November 5th as of 7pm)

  • Total number of cases: 251,338; an increase of 3,120
  • Resolved: 207,998 (82.8%);
  • Deaths: 10,381 (4.1%);
  • People tested per million: 259,744; and
  • Percent Positivity: 2.5%