Ontario declares state of emergency; stay-at-home order starts Thursday

Article content

Ontario’s premier has announced a stay-at-home order effective Thursday, under which residents can only leave their residences for essential reasons, such as grocery or pharmacy trips, accessing health care, exercise, or for “essential work.”

Doug Ford also declared a state of emergency, effective immediately.

Ford said that schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York and Hamilton will remain closed for in-person learning until at least February 10. By Jan. 20, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will provide recommendations for the remaining regions, including London and surrounding Middlesex County, he said.

Earlier in the day, new forecasting was released suggesting that more long-term care residents will die in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario than were lost the first, deadly wave of infections last year.

It’s also quite possible that more than 1,000 ICU beds could be filled with COVID-19 patients in February (about half of the province’s capacity), that deaths could increase to 100 daily, and new cases reported every 24 hours could surpass 20,000.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

These were among the grim takeaways from a presentation put together by health, science and modelling experts, released Tuesday by the Ontario government.

“This is no longer a problem of a small group of cities or one region of the province,” said Dr. Steini Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table and the presenter of the new modelling.

More than half of all ICU units in Ontario are full, or have only one or two beds left, he said. As Ontario climbs closer to having 1,000 ICU beds filled with COVID-19 patients, “We will have to confront choices that no doctor ever wants to make and no family ever wants to hear,” said Brown.

“They will be choices about who will get the care they need, and who will not. They’ll be choices about who receives oxygen or is transported to hospital.”

And that doesn’t just apply to COVID-19 patients, he stressed. It will impact people with heart attacks, or injured in car accidents, or anyone else needing intensive care.

It also means care for thousands of patients waiting for surgery will be delayed or cancelled, leaving people to get sicker, Brown explained.

The presentation observed that 40 per cent of Ontario’s long-term care homes have COVID-19 outbreaks, and that these are occurring across almost all public health units. Since Jan. 1, 198 LTC resident and two staff deaths have been reported, and forecasts indicate that resident deaths in wave two will exceed the 1,815 recorded in the first wave.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

It also found that mobility and contacts between people have not decreased under the pandemic restrictions currently in place in Ontario. While survey data indicates that the majority of Ontarians are following the restrictions, case numbers won’t go down until more of the population starts doing the same, the presentation concluded.

“The current restrictions will need to be augmented if the goal is to reduce case spread, reduce the crisis within our health system and save lives,” Brown said

If case growth hits five per cent “which is quite possible,” Brown said, Ontario is projected to see more than 20,000 daily cases by mid-February. Growth in cases has already exceeded seven per cent on the worst days in Ontario, the presentation noted.

By the end of the first week in February, even under a “very optimistic” scenario of one per cent growth, more than 700 beds would be filled with COVID-19 patients, Brown said. In a “more reasonable range” of case growth, between three and five per cent, Ontario will be looking at 1,000 to 1,500 ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

And if current trends persist, daily COVID-19 deaths could double from 50 to 100 by February’s end – this would put COVID-19 into competition for being the single-greatest cause of mortality on a daily basis, Brown said, potentially surpassing cancer and heart disease.

It also means care for thousands of patients waiting for surgery will be delayed or cancelled, leaving people to get sicker, Brown explained.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Meanwhile, “the stakes have just been raised.”

If the U.K. COVID-19 variant that’s already been identified in Ontario spreads further in the community, its heightened infectiousness will drive cases and deaths even higher, Brown said.

“People will die from virus itself, and from an overloaded health system that is unable to respond to their needs.”

Eight new cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. were among the 2,903 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Ontario Tuesday.

Six cases of the variant had previously been reported in Ontario. All were among recent travellers to the U.K. or travellers’ close contacts, and had maintained their quarantine, according to Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health.

In active cases, the hardest-hit Ontario health units are Windsor-Essex County (436 cases per 100,000 people), Peel (406), Toronto (330), Niagara Region (278), Middlesex-London (264), Eastern Ontario (236), and York Region (226).

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Ontario rose by 138, for a total of 1,701. That includes 385 people in ICU, with 262 on ventilators. Forty-one additional COVID-19 deaths were added to the Ontario total, which now sits at 5,053 lives lost to the disease.

-With files from Postmedia and The Canadian Press

News Near Strathroy

This Week in Flyers