Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday said he has “serious, serious problems” with a new report released by Ontario’s auditor general that criticized the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report said Ontario’s decision not to give Dr. David Williams, its chief medical officer of health, the lead role in its COVID-19 response is “unusual.”
“The buck stops with me,” Ford said at a televised news conference Wednesday afternoon. “Dr. Williams has been riding shotgun with me from day one.”
Ontario reported 1,373 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 445 in Toronto and 415 in Peel Region. Health officials reported 35 additional deaths, bringing the cumulative death toll in the province to 3,554.
The number of people with COVID-19 in the province’s hospitals stood at 523, with 159 in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.
The province also provided guidance on how people should handle the upcoming holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott urged residents to follow public health guidelines and celebrate only with their immediate family. Those who live alone are encouraged to find one family to celebrate with.
WATCH | Ontario premier discusses holiday safety:
Elliott underscored the importance of people continuing to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We know this is hard,” she said.
“But there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said, referring to promising clinical trial results for several new vaccines. “We’re almost there.”
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 347,466, with 58,525 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,710.
British Columbia announced another 13 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday, marking the highest one-day total for deaths since the pandemic began. The province’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, also reported 738 new cases on Wednesday and downshifted the daily case count released Tuesday to 706 from 941, which otherwise would have been a new daily high for the province. She attributed the release of the wrong number to a technical error.
Alberta reached a “tragic milestone” on Wednesday in recording its 500th COVID-19 death and again broke records for cases and hospitalizations. The province reported nine more deaths and 1,265 new cases and the total of 13,719 active cases was the highest number yet.
The province is also dealing with outbreaks in acute-care facilities and announced new visitation rules Wednesday for affected facilities. In addition, Alberta announced plans to make more than 2,000 acute-care beds and 400 ICU beds available in the coming weeks.
WATCH | Respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta says Alberta response not aggressive enough to curb COVID-19:
Saskatchewan reported 164 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 3,012. Premier Scott Moe and the province’s chief medical health officer announced new restrictions Wednesday. They suspended sports competitions and put a limit on how many people can sit at the same table in a restaurant.
Quebec, which has seen the most cases of any province to date, recently provided its own guidance around Christmas.
Premier François Legault has said that people in that province can attend up to two social gatherings (with a maximum of 10 people in attendance at each event) from Dec. 24 to Dec. 27. People who plan on attending these gatherings are also asked to quarantine a week before and a week after.
Quebec reported 1,100 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 28 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 655, with 93 in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Manitoba cracked 300 for the first time on Wednesday.
Of the 303 people now in hospital with the illness, 50 are in intensive care, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference. Another 349 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths linked to the illness were also announced.
In Atlantic Canada, where a travel bubble that tied the provinces together has been temporarily popped, Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 102. The cases come on the heels of new restrictions in the Halifax area.
WATCH | N.S. cracks down on Halifax to stop COVID-19 surge:
New Brunswick announced three new cases Wednesday. The province’s chief medical officer urged residents to “have a plan ready” for self-isolation. New Brunswick currently has 94 active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, saying the individual was a contact of a previous case.
In the North, Nunavut reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 153.
Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said there are more than 300 people in isolation in Arviat. No one in Nunavut is hospitalized because of COVID-19 and Patterson said those infected have mild to moderate symptoms.
There were no new confirmed cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories on Tuesday.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 60 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 38.4 million of those listed as resolved or recovered, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.
In the United States, president-elect Joe Biden appealed for unity Wednesday in a pre-Thanksgiving address, asking Americans to “steel our spines” for a fight against coronavirus he predicts will continue for months.
“Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can to slow the virus,” he said in remarks in Wilmington, Del.
But record hospitalizations and a surging death toll appeared did not seem to be keeping travellers at bay before for this weekend’s American Thanksgiving.
Nearly one million passengers a day have been screened at airport security checkpoints for the past week, with Sunday’s total of 1.047 million being the highest number since the early days of the pandemic in mid-March.
“We know we’re taking a risk, but we want to see the family and it has been a long time … so we want to see them and have fun,” said Daliza Rodriguez, a 33-year-old childhood educator, as she travelled to Texas from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday.
As California battles a surge, the state’s health secretary is urging families to avoid gathering for Thanksgiving. Los Angeles County appeared to be on the brink of issuing a stay-home order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Los Angeles County, the state’s largest, has seen a fourth of all COVID-19 cases and this week passed a threshold set by county public health officials to trigger a three-week stay-at-home order — the first major lockdown since spring.
“Statewide, I don’t believe we’ve ever seen as many hospital admissions increase like we did just in the past 24 hours,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary.
In Minnesota, a surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the state is affecting staffing levels at many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. That’s forcing the state to send the National Guard to help out in some homes, while the administration is also asking state employees to consider volunteering in facilities with critical staff shortages.
The Star Tribune reported Wednesday that Minnesota Department of Health data shows 90 per cent of the state’s nursing homes and 58 per cent of assisted-living facilities have active outbreaks.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore, which once had the highest COVID-19 rate in Southeast Asia, said it was nearly virus-free and Australia’s most-populous state eased restrictions, while Tokyo will urge bars and restaurants to operate with shortened hours.
WATCH | Some Canadians in Australia favour aggressive approach to COVID-19:
South Korea said 60 new army recruits at a boot camp have tested positive for the coronavirus, the military’s largest cluster infection. The Defence Ministry said in a statement the recruits had been taking basic training at an army unit in Yeoncheon, a town near the tense border with North Korea, at the start of their 18 months of mandatory military service.
It said more tests are underway to determine whether 860 other recruits and troops at the Yeoncheon unit have been infected with the virus, too.
In Europe, France will start easing measures to curb the virus this weekend so people will be able to spend the holiday with their families. The country said a vaccine could start being administered by the end of year if approved by regulators.
Britain’s government reduced its commitment to foreign aid on Wednesday, pledging to spend 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product on aid in 2021 as opposed to the normal 0.7 per cent figure, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said.
While expressing “great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target,” Sunak said that “sticking rigidly” to it “is difficult to justify” to people at a time when the economy has been so battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday that his government was considering limiting Christmas celebrations to six people in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Health experts and scientists have advised that six is a sufficiently low number to help stop the virus, Sanchez said. The final details of the restrictions will be negotiated with regional authorities.
In the Middle East, Israel’s central bank urged the government to approve a 2021 state budget as soon as possible to avoid further fiscal restraint when the economy needs stimulus to weather the crisis.
Iran registered on Wednesday a daily record high of 13,843 new cases, the health ministry said, pushing the national tally to 894,385 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.
The World Health Organization said the coronavirus pandemic has “slowed down” in the past week although death rates continued to rise, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported.
The UN health agency said in its latest epidemiological update Wednesday that even though there was a “downward trend” in the number of cases in Europe, the region still has the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths globally. WHO noted that Africa reported the highest increase in new cases and deaths, driven by South Africa, Algeria and Kenya.
In Asia, WHO noted that Japan reported the largest number of daily cases since the beginning of the outbreak, with more than 2,000 reported every day for five consecutive days, a 41 per cent increase from the previous week. Myanmar reported a 74 per cent jump in cases last week, with more than 11,000 new cases and a 36 per cent increase in deaths, at 188.
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