Ontario’s current coronavirus lockdowns not as effective, easing measures could mean higher cases: officials

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Ontario modelling shows COVID-19 cases on the rise' Coronavirus: Ontario modelling shows COVID-19 cases on the rise
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams says cases are on the rise and he is warning people to stay home for the holidays amid the release of new modelling projections. Travis Dhanraj reports – Dec 10, 2020

The Ontario government’s current coronavirus lockdown restrictions in areas like Toronto and Peel Region are not as effective as the previous provincial lockdown, officials say, leading to concerns about higher case growth.

In an update provided by Ontario’s science and modelling consensus tables Thursday afternoon, the present lockdown hasn’t impacted affected residents’ travelling and likely contacts with others compared to restrictions put in place in March.

The advisory bodies did report that even though cases continue to grow, the percentage of people testing positive on a daily basis “appears to be flattening.” But there were notable differences between areas governed by different public health units.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ottawa, Toronto to each receive 3,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine next week

“We’re in a very precarious stage here and we have to really watch carefully if we are not going to have to close some things further,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, told reporters.

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Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario government COVID-19 science advisory table and dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said the virus’ growth rate is fluctuating around one to one and a half per cent, which means that Ontario is at a “critical juncture”.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 patients begin to overwhelm Ontario hospitals' COVID-19 patients begin to overwhelm Ontario hospitals
COVID-19 patients begin to overwhelm Ontario hospitals – Dec 10, 2020

Even if Ontario limits the growth rate of the virus to zero per cent, the province will still see around 2,000 cases daily by the end of the month. If growth accelerates to five per cent, Ontario will see 10,000 cases a day by the first week of January.

Read more: Ontario sets provincial record with nearly 2,000 new coronavirus cases

“It’s really important to understand that at this point, where the reproduction number is fluctuating around one, small changes, even just in a little bit of time, can lead to substantial growth,” Brown said.

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According to the most recent modelling data, Peel Region continues to lead the total new cases per 100,000 residents a week across Ontario’s 35 public health units with 197 cases for every 100,000. Toronto comes second with 118 followed by York Region at 104, Windsor-Essex at 94, Durham Region at 82, Hamilton at 80 and Waterloo at 79.

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It was also reported that if current public health measures and restrictions are relaxed, that decision could mean more people ending up in intensive care units as those units continue to be strained with more than 200 COVID-19 patients taking those spaces. Officials said the ICU strain means accessing care for non-COVID-19-related issues will be more difficult.

According to the data, there has been a 91.6 per cent increase in hospitalizations over the past month and there has been a 165.9 per cent increase in patients being admitted to ICUs.

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With Ontario’s cases, those in the province’s long-term care facilities are increasingly feeling the effects. According to the data, the mortality rate for those infected with the virus at those facilities is increasing and within a month more than 25 people could die each day even though cases in residents are beginning to dip. Officials also noted there is an increase in staff cases again.

When it comes to those who don’t have access to “suitable housing and employment outside of essential services,” the most recent data reiterated those people are impacted at a higher level. The projections released state case rates increased at a slower pace for those who have better housing and don’t work in jobs deemed essential.

Brown said the definition of suitable housing is complex, but essentially it’s having enough bedrooms for people in the household. He said homes with multiple generations have also seen higher numbers of infections.

Read more: Toronto education workers call for asymptomatic testing expansion, delay return to school

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In a joint statement issued by the Ontario Hospital Association, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Ontario Medical Association, Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario and Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario after the update, the organizations reissued a call for immediate action in the coming days and weeks to fight increasing COVID-19 cases.

“It’s the government’s responsibility to put in place strong public health measures we know can prevent and control the spread of the virus and, now more than ever, every Ontarian has a moral responsibility to strictly adhere to these important measures,” the statement said.

“If hospitals, emergency departments and ICUs are full, it means that surgeries, procedures, diagnostic tests and routine care will have to be delayed, adding to a substantial backlog … This risk affects all patients, not only those with COVID-19. The postponement of cardiac or cancer surgeries, for example, puts thousands more in harm’s way.

“Whether you have a grandparent living in a long-term care home, a colleague with a heart condition, or a friend who is a nurse, physician, or respiratory therapist, we all know someone who needs and deserves our protection.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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