Ontario says it is adding 10 additional COVID-19 vaccine clinics to accelerate booster doses for education and child-care workers as the province reported nearly 2,600 people hospitalized with the virus on Saturday.

Provincial data shows 2,594 patients in hospital with COVID-19 on Saturday, including 385 in intensive care.

That’s up from Friday’s count of 2,472 patients hospitalized and 338 in intensive care units.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 248 ICU patients are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown immunization status, and 137 are fully vaccinated. 

There were 31 new deaths linked to the virus.

The province also reported 13,362 new COVID-19 cases, but Public Health Ontario says the actual case count is likely higher due to current testing policies that limit access for many residents.

Meanwhile, a government release announcing the additional vaccine clinics says they will be located in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas — including one at the Toronto Zoo. Sites will also be added in Mississauga, Vaughan, Pickering, Hamilton, Oakville and Brampton. 

The clinics will offer “dedicated time slots” for booster appointments for school and child-care staff, with eligible workers able to book starting Saturday.

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health say they are also working to make more rapid-antigen tests available for child-care centres and schools when they return to in-person learning, a move currently scheduled for Jan. 17.

Ontario initially targetted a Jan. 5 date for the return to school before shifting to virtual learning for the first two weeks of the new year as the province deals with an Omicron-fuelled surge in COVID-19 activity.

Provincial data shows 81.8 per cent of Ontarians aged five and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 87.6 per cent have at least one dose.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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