Ontario reports 16,713 COVID-19 cases on New Year’s Eve as hospitalizations climb

Ontario reported another 16,713 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, New Year’s Eve, along with 15 new deaths.

The new numbers come as Ontario announced it is restricting who is eligible for PCR testing and shortening the required self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people infected with COVID-19.

The changes to testing eligibility means the province will likely have to adjust how it measures new COVID-19 case counts going forward.

Infectious disease experts have said for several days that the actual number of new cases is likely far higher than those reported each day because many public health units in Ontario have reached their testing capacity.

Limiting tests to only higher-risk individuals means the gap between confirmed and actual cases will now grow even wider.

You can read more about the province’s new testing rules here.

On Friday, thousands lined up to pick up a rapid antigen test at a pop-up site in Richmond Hill.

“I’ve been a traffic director all day,” joked Robert Goddard, first in the line. Goddard said he got in line at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday to make sure he wasn’t left without a test.

The Richmond Hill lineup is the second time Benny Spensieri has lined up for a rapid test, and he said he’s acutely aware of how lucky that makes him.

“I’m fortunate to be on vacation to do this,” he said. “This is not the best way to distribute this, those who can’t afford to take time off work are really not going to get anything.”

Just before the lineup moved enough for nurse Petre Garnes to pick up her test, she told CBC News that the province’s changes to testing eligibility and isolation requirements are “giving a lot of mixed messages.”

She worries, in particular, that the rapid tests — which are less accurate than PCR tests — might offer some “false hope.”

Garnes said some might see a negative result as a reason to forgo protective measures like handwashing, masking, and social distancing.

WATCH | Don’t trust a negative rapid test for New Year’s parties, says specialist

Rapid COVID-19 tests are only about 50% reliable against the Omicron variant and should not be used to clear the way for a New Year’s Eve party, says Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC) 1:37

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health’s daily provincial update:

Tests completed: 75,093.

Provincewide test positivity rate: 29.8 per cent.

Active cases: 98,822.

Patients hospitalized with COVID-related illnesses: 1,144.

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 205; 104 needed a ventilator to breathe.

Deaths: 15, pushing the official toll to 10,194.

Vaccinations: 195,809, bringing the total doses administered to date up to 27,208,675. Currently, 90.8 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 or older have received one dose, while 88.1 per cent have received two.