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A paramedic closes the truck doors outside of Roberta Place Long-term Care home, in Barrie, Ont., on Jan. 17, 2021.Cole Burston/The Globe and Mail

A group of over 200 doctors, researchers, and advocates say Ontario must take urgent action to address the rising number of deaths due to COVID-19 in long-term care.

The group says in a letter released today that the situation constitutes a humanitarian crisis.

They say the province’s nursing homes are still seeing staffing shortages, poor infection control, and a delayed response to outbreaks.

The group is recommending the province bolster staffing immediately, legislate a minimum standard of daily care for residents, and provide unrestricted access to family caregivers with personal protective equipment.

They also want the province to begin the process of removing for-profit long-term care providers from the sector.

The Long-Term Care Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The government says that as of today 3,462 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Ontario is reporting 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 today and 63 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 677 new cases in Toronto, 320 in Peel Region, and 144 in York Region.

More than 30,700 tests have been completed since Ontario’s last daily update.

Ontario is also reporting that 9,707 more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since the last daily update.

A total of 295,817 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province so far.

The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive in one of 31 fly-in First Nations communities on Tuesday as part of Ontario’s Operation Remote Immunity.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said that the ORNGE air ambulance service will be delivering and administering the Moderna vaccine to Weenusk First Nation.

Weenusk is a largely Cree community of approximately 500 people in the Hudson Bay region of northern Ontario.

Ontario is pausing COVID-19 vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers so that it can focus on administering the shots to all nursing home residents amid a shortage of doses. Premier Doug Ford says the change of focus comes as the province deals with delays in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with no shots expected to arrive this week.

The Canadian Press

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