Ontario sees drop in COVID hospitalizations and ICU admissions, 70 more deaths

Ontario reported drops in both overall hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care for COVID-19 patients on Thursday, ahead of a scheduled update from the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Kieran Moore’s news conference, set for 3 pm ET, comes one week after the provincial government announced its plan to gradually lift public health measures.

It’s also Moore’s last regularly scheduled public appearance before restrictions are set to ease on Monday.

You’ll be able to watch the update live in this story.

The Ministry of Health said this morning that, as of yesterday, there were 3,645 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. That’s down from 4,016 the day before and 4,061 at the same time last week.

About 56 percent of those patients were admitted for COVID-related illnesses while 44 percent were already in hospital when they tested positive for the virus, according to the ministry.

There were 599 patients with COVID-19 who required intensive care, a second straight day the overall number has fallen. It’s down from 608 the day before but up slightly from the same time last week.

Roughly 82 per cent of the people with COVID-19 in ICUs were admitted for reasons directly related to the virus.

The health ministry also reported another 70 deaths of people with the virus, bringing the official toll to 11,230.

More Ontarians with COVID-19 have died this month than in any other month since last January. January 2022 is currently on track to be among the deadliest months of the entire pandemic in the province, with 1,036 deaths confirmed thus far.

Meanwhile, Ontario is expected to tweak some reopening rules later today to allow moviegoers to eat popcorn and other snacks in theaters next week.

Premier Doug Ford announced last week that with public health indicators starting to show signs of improvement, some COVID-19 restrictions will be eased starting Monday.

Indoor social gathering limits are set to increase from five to 10, and restaurants will be able to reopen their dining rooms at 50 per cent capacity.

Theaters will also be able to reopen, and “spectator areas” such as arenas and concert venues will be able to welcome back up to 500 guests, with smaller venues limited to half capacity.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said last week that signs were emerging that the Omicron-driven wave of the pandemic was starting to recede. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

Initially, guests at movie theaters were not going to be allowed to consume food or beverages until the next phase of restrictions easing, currently set for Feb. 21.

Now a government source says that when regulations are filed later today, they will allow people to eat and drink in theaters when they reopen on Monday.

Ontario releases guidelines for Paxlovid COVID-19 treatment

Ontario is prioritizing older, unvaccinated residents and immunocompromised individuals for a new antiviral COVID-19 treatment.

The province received its first shipment of Paxlovid last week, and Health Minister Christine Elliott had said the drug would be directed toward adults at the highest risk.

Ontario has now released its guidelines for who is eligible for the treatment, including immunocompromised adults, unvaccinated people aged 60 and over, and unvaccinated people aged 50 and over if they have one or more risk factors, or are First Nation, Inuit or Metis individuals .

The treatment, currently available in limited quantities, will be available at clinical assessment centers throughout the province, though not all of the 75 centers will necessarily have the antivirals on hand.

People who would qualify for Paxlovid have to first test positive for COVID-19, and the province says eligible individuals can receive either a PCR test or a rapid test at those sites.

Treatment with Paxlovid – six pills a day for five days – has to start within five days of symptoms beginning in order to be effective.

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