New modeling suggests that the number of COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s intensive care wards will exceed 1,000 by the end of April in every single scenario, raising the spectre that the province may have to formally invoke its triage protocol to decide who gets a bed.

There are currently 701 people with COVID-19 receiving treatment in the ICU but the modelling suggests that the number will reach 800 by next week and 1,000 the week after, regardless of what action the Ford government chooses to take.

The modelling says that “system-level public health measures” could begin to help “blunt some of the impact” after that but the numbers will nonetheless continue to grow and will reach alarming new highs.

With an extended six-week stay-at-home order and “strong” public health measures the number of people in the ICU will hit 1,500 by mid-May. But the modelling warns that weaker public health measures and only a four-week stay-at-home order would result in 2,000 ICU admissions by that point.

There are only about 2,300 beds available in Ontario’s ICU wards on a typical day, though the province is now scrambling to add more.

“It is not clear that all of these patients would ever even enter an intensive care bed,” Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province's COVID-19 science table, said of the projections during a news conference at Queen’s Park. “Even with all the heroic efforts going on across the province to increase capacity right now there may just not be the opportunity to put them (the sickest COVID patients) into these types of beds and not only that there may not be the ability to put other kinds of patients into beds that require intensive care either.”

ICU admissions have risen 51 per cent over last two weeks

There has been a 51 per cent increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care over the last two weeks and Brown said that “we are starting to get to that very sharp part of the curve” where exponential growth is likely.

Asked whether there is any scenario in which Ontario can avoid the sort of ICU admissions outlined in the modelling, Brown said that “in the very short run the answer's no” but he did express optimism that increased vaccinations and new public health restrictions could start to bend the curve in May.

As for what those measures might entail, Brown said that there is no “silver bullet” but said that efforts need to be taken to “really limit mobility into the province and around the province.”

“The sooner we have strong public health measures and strong adherence to public health measures, the sooner that curve changes. The sooner we have strong, stronger vaccination more vaccination, the sooner that starts to change but really in the next week or two, those numbers are baked in, that's not going to change,” he said.

The new modelling comes ahead of a 3:30 p.m. announcement where Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The modelling says that if the Ford government sticks to only a four week stay-at-home order and continues to vaccinate about 100,000 people a daily, case counts could reach 30,000 by late May before they start to decline.

It says that stronger public health measures similar to what was in place last spring and a six-week stay-at-home order could, however, result in daily case counts peaking at around 7,000 in late April before declining.

“People often kind of look at it as some sort of trade off. Have the public health measure or have the economy. It is not a trade off. Every jurisdiction has found itself, as cases rise, having to impose stronger measures,” Brown said. “What I would say is that if we want to move forward with as good of a summer as we can the stronger the measures we have in place and the longer we have them in place will mean that we don’t have to keep doing this.”