As downward trend stalls, Ford says he 'won't hesitate' to roll things back if COVID-19 cases spike
Published Wednesday, May 20, 2020 10:48AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 20, 2020 5:08PM EDT
The downward trend of new COVID-19 cases in the province appears to have stalled as nearly 400 additional cases of the virus were confirmed on Tuesday.
Wednesday's daily epidemiologic summary, which provides data from the previous day, confirmed that there were 390 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, down slightly from the 427 that were reported on Monday.
While there have been promising signs that case growth is slowing in Ontario, the recent numbers show that new cases are not consistently declining in the province.
Ontario reported 294 cases of the virus on May 9, the lowest number of new cases in approximately six weeks, but since that time, Ontario has not seen fewer than 300 new infections on a single day.
Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday that he hoped yesterday’s data was a “blip.”
“I hope it comes down further,” he said during his daily news conference at Queen’s Park.
The increase in the number of new cases also comes at a time when testing has plummeted in the province.
Only 7,382 tests were processed on Tuesday and 5,813 were completed on Monday, resulting in a test positivity rate of five per cent on Tuesday and seven per cent on Monday.
The province has previously said that it should now have the capacity to complete more than 20,000 tests per day.
Williams suggested that few symptomatic people in the community responded to the call to get tested in the last few days due to the fact it was a public holiday on Monday.
“The large inflow of people coming to get tested did not occur. It may be a weekend effect,” he said Tuesday.
'We will roll things back in a heartbeat,' Ford says
Premier Doug Ford said he was a little "shocked" by the decrease in testing in recent days.
"We are going to ramp up the testing like this province has never seen," Ford said at Queen's Park on Wednesday. “I’m going to be all over this testing."
His comments come just one day after the province allowed a number of additional businesses to reopen, including many shuttered retail shops that had been closed to customers for months.
"If we see the numbers start spiking, we will roll things back in a heartbeat," Ford said Wednesday. "The health and wellbeing of people in the province is my number one priority."
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday that anyone exhibiting symptoms of the virus who goes to an assessment centre will be tested.
"We are ramping up the testing across the board with all of the public health units," she said. "We can’t open up things to Stage 2 until we can fully assess what the effects are of Stage 1 in the community."
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Williams said they are working on ramping up testing and are trying to "remove barriers" that have been identified by some members of the public.
When asked if the downward trend of new cases has stopped, Williams said officials will have to do a "more granular analysis" of the matter before determining that.
"I think the numbers, because it did go up, we are looking at that very eagerly at this time to say is it really a significant change," Williams said. "I would say at the moment because it hasn't come down as quickly as I would like, that's why I want to be cautious."
He said for this reason, increasing the size of gatherings beyond five people is not on the table "at this time."
Virus-related deaths rise in Ontario
The number of virus-related deaths in the province also jumped to 43 on Tuesday, up from just 15 on Monday.
The province, which releases data from one day prior, is reporting a total of 1,962 deaths but a count of Ontario’s 34 local public health units on Wednesday afternoon found that there have been 2,041 deaths attributed to the virus to date.
The vast majority of deaths continue to be in people ages 60 and over with at least 1,370 in people over the age of 80.
Only eight people under 40 have died from the virus and no one under 19 has passed away after becoming infected with COVID-19.
Long-term care homes have been devastated by the respiratory illness and on Tuesday, the province confirmed an additional four COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, bringing the total number of outbreaks to 284.
The number of patients hospitalized due to the virus sits at 991 with 160 patients in intensive care and 120 on ventilators.
Other highlights from the data:
- 18,190 of the province's 23,774 cases are now considered to be resolved
- Approximately 56.8 per cent of all cases are female and 42.5 per cent are male
- GTA public health units account for 63.4 per cent of all cases
- 12.8 per cent of all cases have involved hospitalization
- About 35 per cent of all cases are a result of community transmission
- Health care workers account for more than 17 per cent of all cases (4,111)