Ontario's newest hospital will be dedicated to COVID19 patients to start

hospital

The first new hospital to open in Ontario in over three decades will be dedicated to COVID-19 patients to start, thought we're still a few weeks away from those patients going in. 

Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital in York Region will open February 7th, as the virus continues to hammer Ontario hospitals and their ICU units. 

"It's like reinforcements coming over the hill," Ford said, while also announcing the government is investing another $125 million to bring 500 new critical care beds online. 

However, there's no clear timetable on when all those beds will be operational. 

"We're looking at adding capacity as soon as we can," Health Minister Christine Elliott said, adding Ontario Public Health is currently assessing all health care facilities and where more beds could pop up. 

35 of those 500 beds will be at Cortellucci, part of its 185 total beds. 

"Once COVID-19 capacity pressures have stabilized, the new hospital will fully open as originally planned to provide care and services to patients from across the western York region," she said. 

Elliott said the province is also in discussions with the federal government on getting two field hospitals online, indicating their start dates would come much sooner. 

"That shouldn't take very long to happen at all," she said, although the Canadian Armed Forces told CTV Toronto that it had not yet received a request for assistance.

The health system capacity hit another concerning point last week, when the Critical Care COVID19 Command Centre sent ICU doctors a memo to prepare for a triage situation, where physician would have to choose which patients get critical care. 

VACCINE DELAY IMPLICATIONS 

Elliott also gave more specific details on the health implications of the Pfizer vaccine delays, saying the next shipment will have a reduction of 20 per cent and the next will be down 80 per cent. 

"Late February, early March we're going to be receiving larger doses of vaccines coming in, so this is a very temporary situation," she said. 

But the temporary situation is having a major impact on Toronto's first city-run vaccination site at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, designed to serve as a template for other mass-scale vaccination locations. 

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg confirmed that because of the reduced supplies, the original six-week pilot project schedule will be reduced to just five days, after the centre opened on Monday. 

"Those with appointments on January 23rd or after should plan on their appointments being cancelled until further notice," he said. "There will be no impacts to second dose availability and we will ensure that everyone who receives their first dose before the pause of operations, also receives their second dose within the permitted time frames." 

"We look forward to resuming clinic operations as very soon as we are able to do so." 

SOME GOOD NEWS, MANY STAYING HOME 

However, a COVID19 biostatistician and Toronto's chief medical officer of health say Monday brought some good news when it came to the effects of the lockdown. 

Ryan Imgrund has been tracking transmission since the start of the pandemic and said this weekend, most public health units including some of the larger ones saw reproductive values - a key metric for how strong the virus is spreading - at 1.0 or below. 

"We are seeing cases actually drop," he said. "We also need to keep in mind that this is all from the December 26th, lockdown." 

He said should the trend of Ontarians continue to heed the message to stay home, it's likely Rt values could reduce even more because of the recent Stay-At-Home order. 

"This Wednesday or this coming Saturday, we'll hopefully start to see reproductive values, I'm hoping significantly under 0.9, which means that this lockdown is having a really big effect," he said, though he cautions that hospitalizations and ICU reductions won't show up until a few weeks afterwards. 

Toronto Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa reported new cell phone data which also suggests the new measures are working. 

Mobility trends from January 3rd to 9th show time at a home (82 per cent) is almost at March 2020 lockdown levels (87 per cent.) 

"This is exactly the kind of impact we were looking for," she said. "Certainly seeing this increase in device time at home gives rise to some optimism." 

Dr. de Villa did acknowledge the time frame is usually one where people would stay home in any year, but this time was noticeably more than usual. 

"It would appear that there was an additional increase seen in device time at home, over and above that which would be expected as a result of the holiday break," she said. 

On Monday, Ontario also saw a seven-day average of 3,035 cases, down from 3,555 a week ago.