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Ontario to release COVID-19 modelling; Ford says numbers will be hard to hear

Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 at 3:06 pm EDT

A nurse in protective gear greets a woman entering the Seven Oaks Long-Term Care Home in Toronto on Thursday, April 2, 2020. A number of residents at the home have died from COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Ontario will release data Friday showing how many Ontarians could die from COVID-19 in various scenarios, Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday, warning that the projections will be hard to hear.

Ford had resisted calls to release that modelling as recently as Wednesday, saying there were many different scenarios, but said medical experts will now provide a public briefing.

“Over the next little while we will all have to make some very, very difficult decisions and you deserve the same information I have,” Ford said.

“You deserve to see the same data that I see when I’m making decisions. You deserve to know what I know when you’re making decisions for yourself, your family and your community.”

Ford said the numbers may be “a real wake-up call” to people who may be tempted to pack the beaches and the parks as the weather gets nicer.

“The truth is the situation is extremely, extremely serious,” Ford said. “Right now our best defence is to stay home, self isolate and don’t go out. It is a matter of life and death.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health needed time to compile figures that take into account the large influx of people, including snowbirds, returning to Canada and develop an accurate model, Ford said.

Nationally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he isn’t able to share a national picture yet, but will be able to soon.

Ontario reported 401 more COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 16 more deaths.

A Bobcaygeon nursing home also reported two more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 16. The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

There are outbreaks in many other long-term care and retirement homes in the province — at least 26, according to provincial data — including one with eight deaths in Toronto, one in Sarnia with four deaths and one in Hagersville with three deaths.

Provincewide, there are now 2,793 cases of COVID-19, including 53 deaths and 831 resolved.

Ontario reported that 405 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 167 in intensive care, and 112 of those patients are on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s backlog of pending test results continues to drop as more testing capacity is added — from 3,135 Wednesday to 2,052 Thursday.

The province also announced Thursday an investment of $12 million to expand online and virtual mental health supports.

“I know that staying home is no small ask,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “There are many for whom isolation brings unique challenges for their mental health — anxiety, depression, a growing sense of loneliness or helplessness.”

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey announced $2.7 million on Thursday for community agencies to support victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province is also investing $1.3 million in technology to help courts and tribunals operate remotely.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press