Ontario’s coronavirus numbers may have peaked, new modelling suggests

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario health officials revealed updated modelling data for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario health officials have revealed updated coronavirus modelling data that shows the province has already peaked in cases among community spread and numbers appear to be trending downwards towards a best case scenario.

Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, revealed the modelling data at Queen’s Park on Monday, alongside Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health Barbara Yaffe and  President and CEO of Ontario Health Matthew Anderson.

“Projections now show Ontario’s COVID-19 outbreak behaving more like best case,” the report highlighted.

However, Brown said that while community spread of COVID-19 has peaked, cases in long-term care homes, retirement homes and any other congregate settings appear to continue to grow.

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This is the second time Ontario health officials have shown this type of projection data to the public.

On April 3, the province first revealed projection numbers that Ontario could see 80,000 cases and just under 1,600 deaths by the end of April, if the current measures in place are upheld. The province is nowhere near those numbers as Ontarians approach the end of the month.

Now the cumulative cases for the span of the outbreak is less than 20,000, “substantially lower” than 80,000 cases previously predicted (if measures were upheld) and 300,000 cases (if there were no measures implemented) for the end of April.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health official says physical distancing, staying home ‘making a difference’'
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health official says physical distancing, staying home ‘making a difference’

As of Monday, Ontario reported 11,184 cases of the virus with 584 deaths.

“We should all be proud that as a province we stepped up, we faced this enemy head on, we did not shy away from difficult decisions, we did the right thing, we listened to the experts and thanks to our collective efforts, thanks to all of you, we have so far avoided the worst case scenario that we were all dreading,” said Premier Doug Ford on Monday.

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“We’re not out of the woods yet … we’re still in the middle of a battle.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario projects just under 1,600 COVID-19 deaths, 80,000 cases by end of April

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Health officials said while earlier models predicted a peak in cases in May, public health interventions, including widespread adherence to physical distancing, have accelerated the peak to now.

“The sacrifices people are making to stay home and wash their hands are making a difference,” the report added.

The data also showed that Ontario is facing two different disease processes. One, that community spread of the virus appears to have peaked and is coming under control and two, that virus spread in long-term care and other congregate settings seems to be growing.

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For the first process, the report indicated the wave of new community spread cases of COVID-19 in Ontario appears to have peaked.

“In almost every region [of the province] you can see that bending quite pronounced which gives us some hope that we are starting to control the community-based spread of this disease,” Brown said.
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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario’s number of COVID-19 cases appears to have peaked, new modelling suggests'
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario’s number of COVID-19 cases appears to have peaked, new modelling suggests

Three scenarios were modeled for ICU (intensive care unit) and acute ward bed demands in hospital settings:

  • South Korea (“Best Case”): Restrained growth in infected cases slowed early through impact of public health measures.
  • Ontario in March (“Medium Case”): Moderate growth in infected cases slowed later on through impact of public health measures.
  • Italy (“Worst Case”): Moderate then rapid growth in COVID-19 cases that continue to climb at an exponential rate without public health measures.

“Based on recent data, if current measures restricting spread of the disease remain in place, Ontario appears to be tracking toward the South Korea (“best case”) scenario,” the report said.

The report also said the rate of growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations has slowed, while the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units has remained relatively constant over the past week.

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“Everybody who has participated in the public health initiatives, you’ve made a difference,” Anderson said, referring to the graph where Ontario’s ICU’s are “trending better than our best case scenario.”

“We’re planning for the future, I’ve asked our job and recovery committee to develop an framework for a gradual measured and safe reopening of our province based on the data we’re seeing today and based on our unique situation,” Ford said.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario’s rate of growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations has slowed, new data suggests'
Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario’s rate of growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations has slowed, new data suggests

Yaffe touched on how the virus is plaguing long-term care homes and how the province is urgently implementing the “COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes” by doing the following:

  • Aggressive Testing, Screening, and Surveillance: enhancing testing for symptomatic residents and staff and those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19; expanding screening to include more asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; and leveraging surveillance tools to enable care providers to move proactively against the disease.
  • Managing Outbreaks and Spread of the Disease: supporting long-term care homes with public health and infection control expertise to contain and prevent outbreaks; providing additional training and support for current staff working in outbreak conditions.
  • Growing our Heroic Long-Term Care Workforce: redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce and respond to outbreaks, alongside intensive on-going recruitment initiatives.

The plan also includes an emergency order for staff at long-term care homes to only work at one location and enhanced guidance on PPE (personal protective equipment).

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“We are probably as Dr. Brown said, at the peak, but the peak is not just one point in time, the peak can last a bit. And we don’t want it going up again,” Yaffe said. “So we have extended the declaration of emergency to at least May 12 to support public health measures in place.”

“Everyone needs to continue to stay home as much as possible, maintain physical distancing to ensure that the province continues to stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. These actions are making a big difference and you need to stay the course and stay strong to save lives,” Yaffe said.

Ford echoed Yaffe’s sentiment when asked about the potential for people to take the numbers as a sign to stop following guidelines.

“I have the faith in the people of Ontario, they’re the reason we’re in the spot that we’re in and we see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “[But] we have to continue with the message, please continue to self-isolate when possible and social distancing.
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“Don’t sit back on your laurels and take this for granted, we’re far from over.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott issued the same warning:

“No amount of easing up or shortcuts are going to get us there [the end] faster.”

With files from Jessica Patton.

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