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Peel has highest cumulative case rate in Ontario since pandemic began

FILE -- COVID-19 testing. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

As Peel vows to crackdown on businesses failing to adequately heed public health guidance, epidemiological indicators show the region is Ontario’s worst hit area.

Peel has the highest cumulative rate of COVID-19 cases in the province since the start of the pandemic, at 1,200 cases per 100,000 people, according to an epidemiologic summary by Ontario Health. This represents double the provincial total, as of Sunday.

Though Toronto has a greater number of cases, its cumulative rate is second highest after Peel based on population, at 1,068 cases per 100,000 residents.

Peel is redoubling its efforts to contain the virus, announcing fines on Saturday for business owners who do not have sufficient safety measures in place.

The move comes one week after local public health efforts to introduce enhanced safety restrictions and the province’s November 9 announcement that more testing resources would be deployed to the region — which currently sits at a positivity rate of 10.2 percent. This is four times higher than the provincial target of 2.5 percent, which signals the virus is under control.

“Spread of COVID-19 in workplaces continues to drive rising case counts in Peel,” Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said in a November 14 news release. “While most workplaces take great care to protect their employees, some employers continue to disregard the safety of their people and as a result, the Peel community.”

The Region has 18 public health inspectors tasked with enforcing COVID-19 violations. There have been 116 workplace outbreak investigations since September, with officials tracking one in three cases to manufacturing or industrial settings.

Weekend Diwali festivities also saw fines issued and the shutdown of a religious service at Gurdwara Nanaskar, near McLaughlin Road and Ray Lawson Boulevard in Brampton, where a lineup to enter the building reportedly exceeded allowable limits. The Pointer reached out to Peel Regional Police and the City of Brampton for information about any fines that were handed out but did not receive a response by deadline.

Peel recorded the highest case count of all municipalities on Saturday, with 497 of Ontario’s 1,581 infections, followed by Toronto at 456, according to provincial data. On Sunday, the province reported 1,248 cases, 308 of which were in Peel, compared to 364 in Toronto. On Monday, Peel had 392 of the province’s 1,487 cases, and Toronto recorded 508.

“We are all balancing lives and livelihoods, and you hear that every single day, but the reality is, we are now one third of all the case counts right across Ontario and that’s pretty scary, frankly,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a Regional Council meeting last Thursday.

She called the weekly incidence rates dire, citing figures that appear in Peel’s latest epidemiological report showing case rates per 100,000 at 182.5 in Brampton, 100 in Caledon, and 74.2 in Mississauga. The latest weekly rate in Peel is 119.5, while Toronto is at 88 cases per 100,000, the Mayor said.

Hospitals in Peel are also at, or near, full occupancy. The province reported 125 patients in intensive care units on Monday, 20 of which are being treated at Trillium Health Partners and the William Osler Health System hospitals. More than half of all intensive care patients are on a ventilator, according to provincial data.

Meanwhile, Brampton’s South Fletcher’s Sportsplex testing facility for symptomatic patients is temporarily closed, until Tuesday at the latest, as repairs are completed to the building following damage from Sunday’s wind storm.

Monday brought a glimpse of encouraging news for those tracking COVID-19 vaccine development, as biotech giant Moderna announced new data showing a 94.5 percent efficacy rate for the version it is currently testing. This comes after a similar announcement from research at Pfizer Inc. last week.