Ontario reports 959 new COVID-19 cases with plan for expanded booster eligibility coming today | CBC News

Ontario reported 959 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, while the province is slated to expand eligibility for vaccine booster shots to those aged 50 and older ahead of schedule.

Sources told CBC News on Wednesday that the accelerated rollout of boosters will begin in mid-December. 

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is scheduled to detail the plan at a 2 p.m. ET news conference in Toronto. You’ll be able to watch it live in the player above.

Those presently eligible for a booster in Ontario are people aged 70 and older, health-care workers or essential caregivers in congregate settings, people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of Janssen, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.

Earlier this week, Moore said the province was reviewing its strategy for third vaccine doses in light of the potentially dangerous new omicron variant of COVID-19.

Ontario confirmed its first cases of the variant over the weekend. Cases have also been confirmed in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.

Durham Region Health Department announced Thursday it has its first case of a person who has tested positive for the omicron variant.

In a news release, the agency said the person is a close contact of a returning traveller from southern Africa. The health agency also said it is monitoring other COVID-19 cases under investigation for the omicron variant based on travel history and is working with the province to monitor COVID-19 variants of concern.

Meanwhile, today’s case count marks a 28 per cent jump from the same time last week. The seven-day average of daily cases climbed to 851, its highest point since June 5 — when the province’s third wave was slowly tapering downward.

According to the latest estimate from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, cases are currently on track to double every three and a half weeks.

Also this morning, the Ministry of Health said it is in the process of updating how it reports vaccination data for the province. Until recently, the official statistics were calculated using population numbers from the 2011 census. A spokesperson said the ministry will now use figures from the 2020 census instead. 

Based on the revised figures, the ministry said that as of 8 p.m. Wednesday evening, about 87.2 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older had had two doses of vaccine. The spokesperson did not indicate when figures for children aged five to 11 will begin to be included in daily updates.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health’s daily provincial report:

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 155, with 85 relying on a ventilator to breathe.

Tests completed in the previous 24 hours: 38,480, with a 2.9 per cent provincewide positivity rate.

Active cases: 6,932.

Deaths: Seven, pushing the official toll to 10,012.

Loan guarantees for non-profit long-term care development

Ontario also announced Thursday it is offering loan guarantees to help not-for-profit long-term care homes acquire development loans.

In a statement, the government said it’s setting aside $388 million in lending from Infrastructure Ontario, the Crown agency that manages infrastructure loans, for the program. It said approved borrowing costs for not-for-profit homes will also be reduced.

Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said the program is part of a plan to speed up long-term care development in the province.

Ontario Long-Term Care Association CEO Donna Duncan says the loan commitment will help non-profit members overcome challenges in accessing funding and will help deliver more safe and modern homes in the province.

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