The number of COVID-19 cases in intensive care at Ontario hospitals will break the 200 bed threshold sometime in early December, severely hampering the healthcare system’s ability to follow through with all scheduled surgical procedures, new provincial modelling data suggests.

Even with slower case growth than what has been observed in recent weeks, Ontario government epidemiologists said Thursday the ICU bed occupancy due to COVID-19 will hit 200 somewhere in the first week of December, and could near 300 in the worst case scenario by the end of that month.

ICU bed occupancy of more than 150 in Ontario challenges the healthcare system’s ability to keep with scheduled surgeries and makes it difficult to complete additional surgeries already delayed once during the first wave of the pandemic.

At that level, hospitals are facing significant capacity challenges – they are facing significant threats to the sustainability of their health human resource workforce and they are making decisions to cancel, delay or postpone treatments that are necessary,” Dr. Adalsteinn Brown of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health told reporters on Thursday.

The modellers give three scenarios for new case growth going into December.

In one scenario, with one per cent average case growth, Ontario could see more than 2,000 cases per day by the end of December.

At three per cent average case growth, the province could see more than 4,000 cases per day by the end of next month.

At five per cent average case growth, Ontario could see 9,000 cases per day by the end of December.

Ontario’s case growth has been 0.45 per cent per day on average over the past two weeks.

The modellers say “key indicators” of the pandemic have been “flattening” in some regions, but progress is not consistent across the province. 

“It’s best described as a fragile or precarious situation where we would like to see cases continue to flatten or decline before we can say that we are making strong progress," Brown said.

The doctors who delivered the model said that while the situation remains “precarious,” it is no longer worsening.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the situation is at the point where there is no discussion about placing new regions into lockdown.

“We’re not recommending any new ones go into lockdown at this stage,” he said.