Toronto: The Canadian province of Ontario could see a near seven-fold rise in daily COVID-19 case counts by June if the province implements “weak” public health measures and continues with a subdued vaccine rollout, new data from an expert panel advising the provincial government revealed on Friday.
“The models are suggesting that we would’ve had a much, much higher rate of case growth – to an almost unbelievable level of, perhaps, 30,000 before it would peak,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the Ontario government’s science advisory co-chair, said, noting that this scenario is less probable following steps taking by Premier Doug Ford in the weeks since the last modelling projections were unveiled.
The data modelling projections unveiled on April 1 revealed that Ontario was on track to see daily caseloads nearly tripling – to nearly 6,000 – by the end of the month if no action is taken. Ford implemented a four-week lockdown effective April 5 and declared a state of emergency coupled with a stay-at-home order just a week later.
However, the expert panel anticipates the case counts will surpass their earlier projections, even with increased public health measures in place, swelling to over 15,000 daily cases by the middle of June.
Brown also warned that all projections point to growing ICU occupancy, which is already at record levels. The modelling suggests that with the current measures in place the province could see 2,000 individuals in intensive care by the middle of next month and stricter restrictions would be needed to cap growth at 1,000 cases. There are currently 701 individuals under intensive care with COVID-19 related illnesses.
The panel noted that the growth could be tempered by prolonged employment of the public health orders or introducing even stricter measures. Growing speculation around Queens Park suggests that the Ford government is considering additional measures including a province-wide curfew, travel restrictions and shuttering some construction activity.
The modelling also suggests that spread could be curbed by tripling number of daily vaccinations from 100,000 to 300,000 daily administered shots.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking to reporters in Ottawa expressed his concern about the situation in Ontario, in particular the hotspot of Toronto, and offered to deploy the Red Cross that would assist with in the rollout with mobile vaccination sites.
The premier’s office, however, declined the offer with Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich saying in a statement that unless the offer is matched with an increase in supply, the help of the Red Cross is unnecessary.
“We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue,” Yelich said.
The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, during a press briefing said that Ontario has the capacity to administer over 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses daily contingent on adequate supply.
Federal and provincial officials have been at odds for weeks over the pace of vaccine deliveries from Ottawa’s to Toronto.
Canada is currently in the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with Trudeau saying on Friday that the situation is “very serious” and urging Canadians to make one last push in the “final but toughest stretch” of the pandemic.
The resurgence of the pandemic has been most pronounced in the province of Ontario, where the spread has been exacerbated by variants of concerning, particularly the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.
Ontario is reporting some 4,500 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus daily and the province has recorded 408,383 cases and over 7,664 virus-related deaths since the onset of the pandemic a year ago.