Ontario reports record number of COVID-19 cases as official warns that crowded hospitals may soon put routine surgeries at risk
Published Friday, October 9, 2020 10:17AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 9, 2020 5:12PM EDT
Ontario reported 939 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and five new deaths, shattering all prior records of cases set during the pandemic, with officials saying coronavirus hospitalizations will soon threaten hospitals' ability to perform surgeries this fall no matter what is done.
And public health officials say the spread is such that rising cases in congregate care settings can no longer be avoided, and some or all surgeries in major Ontario hospitals will need to stop due to rising bed occupancy due to COVID-19.
"This (case) number is now higher and the curve continues to increase in terms of its steepness," Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto said on Friday afternoon.
He said that provincial modelling says the rising cases will likely impact the ability of regularly scheduled surgeries to continue in hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa this fall.
"In all of our scenarios now, both best case and worst case the number of patients in the ICU crosses the 150 threshold within next 30 days."
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 44,900 tests were completed Friday, 3,000 less than on Thursday.
Friday's results represent a positivity rate of 2.1 per cent, the first time it has risen above 2 per cent in several months.
"The percentage of people testing positive is rising too quickly, with some communities showing up to 10 per cent positivity," Premier Doug Ford said.
"The curve is not just growing, it's growing exponentially," Elliott said.
Officials reported 797 COVID-19 cases on Thursday and four new deaths, but officials later said some of the tests used to generate that result were up to seven days old.
Two of the five deaths reported Friday were long-term care home residents.
There have now been 2,997 deaths reported in Ontario since March, with 57,681 total infections confirmed through diagnostic testing and 49,032 recoveries.
There are now 5,652 active cases of infection across the province.
Of Ontario's 34 public health regions, nine reported no new cases on Friday, and 22 others reported five or less.
Modelling released by the province earlier this month suggested the province would reach 1,000 cases per day sometime in mid-October.
The new daily high comes as Ontario Premier Doug Ford's cabinet agreed to enact new public health restrictions in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa that includes the shutdown of indoor dining, movie theatres, casinos and fitness centres for 28 days.
Epidemiologist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said it is now time to act.
"If we let this be at the current state it will result in a significant number of hospitalizations and those will lead to deaths," he told CP24.
He urged the Ford government to be "mindful" of the sectors of the economy that could be disproportionately hurt by new measures and offer them support.
He also cautioned that although recent case counts are higher than the peak of the first wave in April, they also reflect significantly higher rates of testing.
"We have a better depiction of what the ground truth is," he said.
When asked why more measures were not enacted sooner, as Toronto asked for the end of indoor dining one week ago, Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said the backlog in testing clouded their understanding of the spread of the problem.
"When you're looking at the data today, we had the issue of backlog with lab tests and there are number of things there, we were plateauing around 600 (cases) and then over the last two days we went up almost 200 each day."
Brown said that at this point, simply redeploying the finite number of PCR tests to diagnose infection, or redoubling efforts on contact tracing, would not allow them to isolate enough people to slow the spread of the virus.
"At this point, there is no opportunity to test more or contact trace more as a means to stop the spread of infection."
Friday's results showed that 55 per cent of new infections were in people aged 39 or younger.
But more than 150 people above the age of 60 tested positive in the past 24 hours as well.
Brown said there is no longer a complete ability to shield long-term care homes and other congregate settings from higher rates of infection, due to the prevalence of the virus in the community.
Elsewhere in the GTA, Durham Region reported 32 new cases, Halton Region reported 59, and Hamilton reported 40.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations in the province continued to accelerate.
There were 225 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19 symptoms on Friday, up from 205 on Thursday and 167 one week ago.
The province says hospital occupancy due to COVID-19 has increased 250 per cent over the past three weeks.
Of those, 47 people are in intensive care and 29 people are breathing with the help of a ventilator.