Ford to further close economy as Ontario modelling predicts more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in May
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This article was published 16/04/2021 (703 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Amid alarming new projections of skyrocketing COVID-19 infections, Premier Doug Ford is further closing down Ontario’s economy in hopes it’s not too late to prevent a health-care disaster.
Modelling released Friday by the provincial government’s science table of expert advisers predicted a worst-case scenario of more than 30,000 new infections a day by the end of next month unless strict measures are taken.
With strong public-health controls and a continued vaccination rate of 100,000 shots a day, Ontario’s case count could be kept hovering around 5,000 cases a day.
But with enhanced measures and tripling vaccinations to 300,000 daily, cases are projected to decline to well under 5,000 a day.
Steini Brown, co-chair of the science table, warned that July and August look perilous.
“Without stronger system-level measures and immediate support for essential workers and high-risk communities, high case rates will persist through the summer,” his panel said.
Brown, who heads the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said “although improving, vaccination is not reaching people at high-risk fast enough to overcome the level of serious illness in our communities and our hospitals.”
COVID-19 is just tip of an iceberg that could cause titanic surgery backlogs for Ontario’s health care system.
“ICU occupancy is compromising care for all patients.”
The science table noted that along with new and more infectious variants, the original strains of COVID-19 infections are rising again.
Hospitalizations have jumped 67 per cent and ICU occupancy is up 51 per cent in the last two week.
Brown said a six-week stay-at-home order with at least 100,000 vaccinations a day is “the only way to flatten the curve.”
Ontario has another three weeks in the current stay-at-home order, which will almost certainly be extended next month.
Against this sobering backdrop, Ford was set to unveil new restrictions later Friday come as Ontario has seen infections surge a stunning 83 per cent this month. But he will resist calls for a province-wide 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew like parts of Quebec have had for weeks.
Ontario posted a record 4,812 new cases Friday with 25 deaths and set another all-time high with 1,955 COVID-19 patients in hospital. That includes an increase of 42 people sick enough to require intensive care, bringing the current total to 701 patients. Of them, 480 are on ventilators to breathe, up 38 people from the previous day.
There have 7,664 deaths in the past 13 months.
With the Greater Toronto Area “struggling” because of the virus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was prepared to deploy mobile Red Cross vaccination teams.
He offered assistance to Ford in arranging extra health care workers from other provinces as Ontario hospitals fear they will soon be overwhelmed by the third wave surge.
“We are ready to step up,” Trudeau said after several more Toronto vaccine clinics said they will close.
“This is a moment when it’s all hands on deck,” the prime minister said, declining to criticize Ontario’s response to the pandemic when pressed by a reporter.
Ford’s office said “while we appreciate the prime minister’s offer, unless it is matched with an increase in supply, we do not need the Red Cross at this time for the administration of vaccines in Ontario.
“We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue,” said the premier’s office.
In Toronto, Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford should have closed all workplaces that are not “truly the most essential,” such as food processing and provided them with vaccines and medical-grade personal protective equipment.
“We know that the bulk of COVID outbreaks and spread is occurring at workplaces. Essential workers in vulnerable situations can’t just stay home like the premier is asking.”
Provincial health officials and hospital officials have been saying for weeks that essential workers are catching highly contagious variants on the job, taking them home and infecting their entire families. In some cases, whole families are arriving at hospitals together for treatment.
“There is no time left for Doug Ford’s half-hearted, half-measures or misguided, unqualified leadership,” said Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, who called on the government to appoint an independent COVID-19 “czar” with proper credentials to guide the response to the pandemic.
“He failed us,” Del Duca said of Ford, suggesting Brown as a potential candidate.
Brown’s panel warned the government two months ago that there would be “little room for error” in fighting the variants to avoid a third wave.
“There will be little time to react quickly because of how fast the variants spread,” he added at the time.
His modelling forecast that variants would dominate case loads in March has proven true.
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie