Canada

Increasing outbreaks cause for ‘concern:’ province

Ontario public health officials have identified about 108 COVID-19 outbreaks across the province over the past week.

Dr. Dirk Huyer, coordinator of the Provincial Outbreak Response, said there have been 178 outbreaks within the past two weeks, compared to 75 in the previous two weeks.

“The numbers mean that each day as we move forward we’re seeing more and more outbreaks,” Huyer said Thursday.

Some of the new outbreaks are emerging in vulnerable populations, like nursing homes and retirement residents, he said.

Ontario reported 538 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 229 in Toronto, 101 in Peel Region, 66 in Ottawa and 43 in York Region.

Public health officials confirmed three more deaths related to the pandemic.

Toronto identified 49 outbreaks, or clusters of COVID-19, between Sept. 20-30.

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“Of those, 19 or 39% were in bars or restaurants… There is a range of both patrons and staff,” Huyer said.

About 15% of restaurant and bar staff hold more than one job and 20% socialize with their coworkers, he said.

“We’ve also seen a percentage where public health measures were not effectively applied in those particular settings,” Huyer said,

“So those are all concerns.”

At his daily media conference Thursday, Premier Doug Ford was pressed on whether he plans to further restrict restaurants and bars .

Ford has already ordered last call no later than 11 p.m.

The Premier said most of the infections linked to restaurants and banquet halls, for example, are in staff and confined to the kitchen.

“I’ve got to compliment all the restaurants — you guys are doing great,” Ford said.

“This is their livelihood and they’re doing such a great job.”

While there’s no justification at this point for banning dining in, perhaps tables could be reduced to a maximum of six customers, he said.

Rather than roll the whole province back to Stage 2 as the daily caseload remains above 500, Ford said he’s focused on controlling the hotspots of Peel Region, Toronto and Ottawa.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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