Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus, newly released projections showed Thursday as the province marked another record for new infections.
The new modelling predicts at a rate of growth of five per cent, Ontario could hit 6,500 cases per day by mid-December. If cases grow by three per cent, the province could be reporting over 3,000 cases per day.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown says Ontario is currently at a seven-day growth rate around four per cent while the three-day growth rate is closer to six per cent.
When asked whether restrictions currently in place effectively control the amount of growth, Dr. Brown said based on what they are seeing, he would not expect to see any deviations from these models.
“You’ll continue to see growth in cases, you’ll see the high levels of ICU use probably hit, you’ll se the mortality continue to climb in long-term care homes. Even with new restrictions if they are implemented today, you would still see growth,” said Dr. Brown.
“I do not believe there is way that the cases will change without action.”
Bold action is what the head of the Ontario Hospital Association says is needed, noting that provincial hospitals will face significant capacity challenges.
“Bold and decisive leadership is needed immediately from the Government of Ontario to support local public health units and Ontario’s hospitals in the difficult time that lies ahead,” said CEO Anthony Dale in a statement.
Dale says the stanby capacity that was available in hospitals at the onset of the pandemic is now gone and some are certain to face overwhelming conditions unless the Ford government puts new public health measures in place.
“The OHA is urging the province to reconsider its COVID-19 Response Framework and also calls on local public health units to follow the bold leadership that the Region of Pell and City of Toronto have demonstrated.”
The modelling shows key indicators for the pandemic continue to worsen, though the impact varies from region to region.
If the province’s cases grow at a rate of five per cent, Ontario’s case numbers would likely exceed the numbers several countries in Europe are reporting that are now in some form of lockdown — including the U.K., France and Germany.
Public Health says ICU occupancy will exceed the 150-bed threshold under any scenario within the next two weeks and could exceed 400 beds under the worst scenario within six weeks.
Once ICU occupancy exceeds the 150-bed threshold, it impacts whether hospitals can proceed with scheduled surgeries.
Even if new measures are imposed, it will take a while for improvements to appear, Brown said.
The new projections for how the virus might spread in Ontario come as the province has reported daily case increases above 1,000 for the past week, and a record 1,575 on Thursday.
They also come amid ongoing criticism of the province’s new tiered system for managing COVID-19 measures, which places local health units in green, yellow, orange, red, or lockdown categories based on metrics such as the number of cases per 100,000 people.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended the colour-coded system, maintaining it is meant to serve as a baseline for local health authorities to build on with additional measures.
Ford said the framework was was proposed by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, and dismissed the criticism as simply a difference of opinion within the medical community.
As the new projections were announced, Williams stressed the numbers reflect infections that took place before the new system took effect, but didn’t rule out any future amendments.
“The framework has not been out for a week yet and we have to see what’s going to happen with that,” he said.
A group representing tens of thousands of Ontario physicians called Thursday for the government to lower the thresholds for imposing stricter measures, saying the framework is too lax, particularly at a time when case counts are surging.
The Ontario Medical Association said the criteria to move from one alert level to the other should be much lower – as much as 50 per cent lower in some cases – and the higher levels should include a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.
Deaths in long-term care homes are up substantially, with 71 being reported in the last seven days. There are currently almost 1,100 cases of COVID-19 in long-term care homes including staff cases.
The numbers also show over 60 per cent of cases reported in Toronto have no epidemiological link and in Peel Region, the positivity rate for COVID-19 is over 10 per cent.