Continued delay will overflow ICUs by Jan 1, says Ontario's lead science advisor

The co-chair of Ontario's science advisory table says modelling shows continued delays to control spread of COVID-19 will result in ICUs overflowing by Jan. 1 and a surge to 3,000 to 5,000 new cases per day by Jan. 31.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ontario's ability to control the spread of COVID-19 is "precarious," but tough lockdowns lasting a month or more could cut the number of daily cases significantly, the province's health advisors said Monday.

New projections show infections in the province continue to rise and "hard" lockdowns of four to six weeks could bring cases down to less than 1,000 a day.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table, said anything less than a four-week lockdown will not work, based on the experience of other jurisdictions.

"Hard lockdown, a very stringent lockdown, with very strong communication, of four to six weeks can reduce case numbers in Ontario," he said. "The duration of lockdown is very important."

The new data was released hours before Premier Doug Ford was set to hold a news conference where he's expected to reveal new restrictions for the province.

While Brown, and Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, did not give specifics on what will be recommended for the province, they emphasized the seriousness of the situation.

"We're in a very challenging and precarious situation ... and we do need to have measures that will reduce people interacting with other people that don't live in their household," Yaffe said.

Brown said approaches employed by other jurisdictions that have been shown to work include the use of curfews, limiting mobility, use of strong work-from-home orders, and the closure of non-essential businesses.

"I think what was really very important in each jurisdiction ... was to communicate the seriousness of this, so that people did stay at home, and there's different ways to do that," he said.

Ford said last week that he would not impose a curfew.

Brown said that if Ontario's COVID-19 case rate continues to grow between one to three per cent, the province will have 3,000 to 5,000 daily cases by the end of January.

If the province sees "substantial growth" of seven per cent, Ontario will have 30,000 daily cases.

The new projections show that under all scenarios the province will see 300 intensive care unit beds filled within 10 days – double the 150-bed threshold where surgeries must be cancelled.

Under a worst-case-scenario, ICU occupancy could hit 1,500 beds by mid-January.

The data also shows that deaths due to COVID-19 will continue to increase, especially in long-term care where there have been 633 resident deaths since Sept. 1, and 100 over the past week.

Brown said Ontario is about a month and a half to three months behind other countries as they face their second waves, and have subsequently imposed their own new restrictions. Without action, further case increases are inevitable, he said.

"What's important though is that virtually all of these jurisdictions have seen growth, until they have implemented some form of a harder or more stringent lockdown," he said. "There's been no self-correction in the disease in any of the jurisdictions that we consider peer jurisdictions right now."

Ontario reported 2,123 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 17 more deaths related to the virus.


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