Ontario reports 1,388 new cases of COVID-19, 45 new virus-related deaths

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TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 1,388 cases of COVID-19 today and 45 new deaths linked to the virus.

The province says 1,021 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 325 in intensive care and 228 of those patients on a ventilator.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 455 new cases in Toronto, 288 in Peel and 131 in York Region.

Elliot says 62,300 tests were completed since the last daily update.

A total of 372,666 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered by the province so far.

The latest figures come days before Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce details of a plan to gradually reopen the province’s economy after a widespread lockdown meant to curb COVID-19 case counts.

The Canadian Press has learned that Ford is expected to announce that the state of emergency declared last month will be allowed to expire as scheduled on Feb. 9.

According to a senior government source with knowledge of the decision, the province will have an “emergency brake” in place to allow the government to quickly move a region into lockdown if it “experiences a rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if the health-care system becomes overwhelmed.”

The measure is meant to help deal with the risk posed by new variants of COVID-19, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The current stay-at-home order will remain in place in much of the province until each region transitions back into a colour-coded framework that allows the province to rank health units based on case numbers and trends.

The phased reopening of the economy will start in four regions where transmission of the virus is low.

Health units in Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, Renfrew County, and Timiskaming are expected to move into the least-restrictive green zone on Wednesday, which means restaurants and non-essential businesses can reopen.

On the week of Feb. 15, all remaining regions except three hot spots in the Greater Toronto Area are set to move to the framework based on their local case rates.

Toronto, Peel Region and York Region are expected to be the last to make that transition on the week of Feb. 22, but the source said any sudden increase in cases could delay that plan.

A provincial lockdown was imposed in late December and was followed by the state of emergency and a stay-at-home order that took effect Jan. 14 as COVID-19 rates surged.

While cases have since declined, public health officials have said the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19 are a concern.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, has said he would like to see daily cases drop below 1,000 and the number of patients with COVID-19 in hospital intensive care units below 150 before lifting restrictions.