Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Military to support vaccination efforts in northern Ontario Indigenous communities

Canadian Armed Forces to support vaccine efforts in 32 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation

TORONTO — The Canadian military is set to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution in northern Ontario, as officials investigate the death of a teenager who had the virus and worked at a long-term care home in the province’s southwest.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces will support vaccine efforts in 32 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. The move came after a request from the province for assistance in getting vaccine to First Nations communities, he wrote.

“Our government will always be there to support the fight against #COVID19,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation, whose territory comprises 49 remote communities in northwestern Ontario, did not immediately comment on the pending deployment.

Meanwhile, officials in Middlesex-London said Sunday that a male teen who worked in a long-term care facility in the region was among the three deaths reported on the area’s COVID-19 case site earlier in the weekend.

Dr. Alexander Summers, associate medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said he couldn’t provide the exact age or any other details about the teen.

But he said the person was a staff member of the long-term care home who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and died earlier in the week.

“Through the course of our investigation, the potential exposures could be many, but certainly the long-term care home is a potential exposure for this individual,” Summers said in an interview.

Summers said to his knowledge, the teen was not hospitalized with COVID-19.

He is the youngest person to have died after contracting the virus in the county, Summers said, noting the majority of deaths they’ve seen among COVID-19 patients have been in an older demographic.

“It can have severe impacts on people of all ages and this story and this unfortunate and tragic situation as a reminder of that,” Summers said.

“Certainly, this is a very rare occurrence. It’s a rare event. And the investigation continues as to understanding what exactly might have happened. However, regardless, it’s a sad day.”

The Roberta Place Retirement Lodge long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., north of Toronto, also made headlines over the weekend after health officials said a U.K. variant of COVID-19 was behind a deadly outbreak there.

On Sunday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said it had learned of an additional individual with the U.K. variant within the region.

The unit said that individual had close contact with a person who is also part of a COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in Bradford West Gwillimbury, south of Barrie.

Officials are now investigating whether that outbreak is also due to the U.K. variant.

Ontario reported 2,417 new cases of COVID-19 and 50 more deaths related to the virus on Sunday.

The numbers were slightly up from Saturday’s 2,359 cases, though deaths declined by two from previous figures.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 785 new cases in Toronto, 404 in Peel Region, 215 in York Region and 121 in Niagara.

Over 48,900 tests had been completed in Ontario over the past 24 hours.

The province reported that 4,427 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the province’s last report, and 1,436 are hospitalized with the virus.

A total of 280,573 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 255,002 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. Of those, 225,046 have recovered and 5,803 people have died.

On Monday, the province plans to issue the results of a weekend-long expansion of its “inspection blitz” of big-box stores to ensure they were following COVID-19 guidelines.

The workplace inspections, which started in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas last weekend, stretched out to Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham regions.

Preliminary figures from Saturday showed inspectors went into 310 big-box stores and issued 34 tickets and 53 orders, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said Sunday.

Overall, inspectors found the stores were only at “64 per cent compliance, which the minister said wasn’t good enough.

“The three big issues that we’re finding this weekend: masking protocols aren’t being followed, in some cases; the physical distancing is still an issue in some stores; and this weekend we found that some of these big-box stores don’t have a safety plan that’s required of them to prevent COVID-19 from coming into the workplace,” McNaughton said in an interview.

“Every business should know at this point in the pandemic what’s expected of them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021.

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