Health officials reveal new projections as Ontario sees 934 more COVID-19 cases

New provincial projections for COVID-19 spread released Thursday show that virus growth in Ontario is slowing and the province is seeing a “more gentle curve” than it was initially preparing for, public health officials say. 

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, who is advising the province on its pandemic response, presented the projections at a news conference Thursday.

Brown said the province is now estimating a steady level of cases between 800 to 1,200 per day.

“Most indicators are showing a slowing growth … but cases are continuing to climb,” he said.

“We are seeing continued growth in cases. We are not going on a decline right now, but we’re not going on as steep of a curve,” echoed Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner.

That in no way means Ontario is out of the woods, Brown added.

“This disease … can dramatically turn, and you can have rapid, rapid growth, quite quickly,” he said.

The projections come as Ontario reported another 934 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, pushing the seven-day average of new daily cases to nearly 900. 

The new cases include 420 found in Toronto, the most on a single day in the city by a considerable margin. The previous record was 330 infections recorded on Sept. 29.

Additionally, 169 were confirmed in Peel Region, 95 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa.

Several other areas also saw double-digit increase:

  • Halton Region: 35
  • Hamilton: 28
  • Durham Region: 19
  • Niagara: 16
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 15
  • Waterloo Region: 13
  • Eastern Ontario: 13

The seven-day average of new daily cases, a measure that helps limit noise in the data to provide a clearer picture of long-term trends, is now about 899, also a new record high since the first case was reported in Ontario in January. 

The province’s new projections show significant differences in percent positivity in different regions of the province. Peel, for example, stands at 6.5 per cent, with Toronto at 4.8 per cent, York at 4.5 per cent and Ottawa at 3.1 per cent. The provincial benchmark for concern is 2.5 per cent.

The data also shows there is a substantial variation depending on location in the percentage of cases where no epidemiological link could be found — which essentially means cases where public health units cannot trace back where the infection came from.

In Toronto, that number stands at 65 per cent. The next highest is Ottawa, at 48.8 per cent.

Province seeing ‘slower growth’ in hospitalizations than projected

The new infections come with 35,621 completed tests, more than typically done throughout this week but still below capacity, which is about 45,000 daily, according to provincial public health officials.

Further, the number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped 10 up to 322 after two straight days of staying steady. Those being treated in intensive care increased by six, up to 77, while the number of patients on ventilators is 52.

Brown said Thursday that the province is also seeing “slower growth” in hospitalizations and ICU usage than it originally expected, but noted growth still exists, which is “still a cause for concern.”

Brown also said the average age for cases is moving up, and now stands at 40. That, he said, “creates a warning signal,” as cases in older people are where the province will see the biggest health system issues.

The province is seeing “sharper growth” in cases in long term care homes, and that is where the greatest consequences for virus spread can be found, Brown said.

Ontario saw more deaths in long-term care in the last week than it did in the entire period from Aug. 15 to Oct. 8, Brown added.

10 new deaths recorded

The province also added 10 more COVID-19-linked deaths, bringing the total to 3,118. Some 2,001 of those deaths were residents of long-term care facilities.

There are currently about 7,578 confirmed, active cases of the illness provincewide, the most ever. 

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times found in the provincial system.)

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that the province is seeing “a little bit of a decline” in numbers. Health officials, however, did not say that the numbers are declining, but rather that growth is slowing.

Amidst this backdrop, Ford and his ministers spent the first 25 minutes of Thursday’s press conference talking about “Ontario made” labels and branding. At one point, Ford told viewers to “buy a BBQ” from the manufacturer hosting the news conference.

“We need to support the local home team as I always say,” Ford said.

Ford was again asked Thursday if he’s anticipating that Ontario regions that are currently in a “modified Stage 2” will be able to go back to Stage 3 of reopening measures once a 28-day period is finished early next month.

The premier said the province is looking at taking a “surgical approach,” in these regions.

“We’re working with our health team, and I can’t give you 100 per cent,” Ford said.

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