Ontario’s latest round of provincial modelling shows that the province’s stay-at-home order is having a positive effect at limiting the spread of COVID-19 with cases “decreasing earlier and faster than projected” but that there’s still work to be done to see greater improvement.
Ontario’s science advisers say COVID-19 cases are declining as the province remains under its current public health measures but further limits on essential workplaces are needed to bring rates under control.
The science advisory group says case rates are flattening but pockets of growth remain in hot spots, with positivity rates still high in Peel Region, Toronto, and York Region.
Since mid-March, the province has seen a decrease in daily COVID-19 case counts with the 7-day rolling average topping out at just under 60 percent at the time.
As of April 15, it’s dipped below 50 and is now at 40 percent.
Ontario’s latest stay-at-home order was enforced on April 8 and will be in place for at least six weeks until May 20.
The previous stay-at-home order went into effect on January 14 and was lifted nearly two months later on March 8, which led to a devastating increase in transmission, particularly with variants of concern.
“There’s clear reason for hope, but this hope requires a commitment, dead-set determination to see the job through,” Ontario’s science advisory co-chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown said, urging people to ensure that the province’s “third wave is the last wave.”
“Workplace-related mobility remains too high, and reducing this mobility will help us further drive down overall (cases).”
Among the key findings, Brown says vaccine distribution is “more equitable” due to the recent shift in the government making hotspots a priority.
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Brown says continuing this progress is essential and will continue to make a difference in controlling the third wave.
Despite some positive developments and trends, the latest data shows ICU occupancy remains at a record high with the province saying the system is under incredible pressure.
In modelling released two weeks ago, data indicated Ontario’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were at their highest levels since the pandemic began.
Between March 28 and April 5, Ontario saw the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care escalate by 25 percent.
Variants of concern remain prevalent in Ontario with Brown indicating more than 90 percent of current cases are a VOC and almost all of them are the B.1.1.7. variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.
Brown says limiting workplace mobility is key.
COVID-19 modelling key findings – Thursday, April 29
In a best-case scenario with strong public health measures in place, the modelling projects 1,500 daily COVID-19 cases by mid-June and topping out at 2,000 new cases per day by July.
With moderate measures and 100,000 vaccinations administered on a daily basis, the province could see just under 3,000 cases by early June with a potential increase to 5,000 new infections by mid-July.
With weak or minimal health restrictions, cases could increase to 6,000 per day by late May into June topping out at around 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day by July 1.
As of Thursday, the province has hovered around 4,000 cases per day with the current stay-at-home order in place for at least the next month or so.
The advisers say the province’s surgical backlog has now reached 257,536 procedures and will be an “enormous challenge” to clear.
“Our healthcare system is no longer functioning normally,” Brown said.
“We’re taking the most critically ill patients and putting them in helicopters and ambulances and moving them across the province because we’re searching for beds. Nurses and doctors are attending to patients and field hospitals.”
The science advisers’ predictions came just hours after the government said it will be sending half its available COVID-19 vaccines to hot spots for the next two weeks and expects to offer shots to all adults provincewide by the last week of May.
Ontario reported 3,871 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 41 new deaths, a figure that pushed the province’s overall death toll from the virus past 8,000.
With files from the Canadian Press