Premier doesn't want to cause 'panic' by releasing province's COVID-19 models
Published Wednesday, April 1, 2020 2:49PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 1, 2020 7:10PM EDT
The premier of Ontario says he is hesitant to release numbers tracking the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, fearing the province’s modelling could cause “panic.”
“Those models can drastically change. If we underestimate on one side and we overestimate on the other, it could create a panic if we overestimate,” he said during his daily COVID-19 update at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.
“Our message is very clear. We are going through some turbulent waters over the next few weeks and we need to do everything we can to make sure that people self-isolate.”
At the beginning of the news conference, Ford said Ontario is trying to avoid the same fate as some European nations that have been overwhelmed by the virus.
“The hard truth is, right now, today, there is very little separating what we will face here in Ontario from the devastation we’ve seen in Italy and Spain. Thousands of lives are at stake,” Ford said.
“The actions we take today, what we do as a government and as a people today, will determine what we face tomorrow… The next two weeks will be absolutely critical because we know a surge is coming.”
There have been more than 13,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 in Italy and more than 9,000 in Spain.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials projected there could be between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in that country as a result of COVID-19.
When pressed about releasing projections in Ontario, Christine Elliott, the province’s health minister, said the models cannot predict what will happen here.
“I can tell you that there are a number of different models that have been presented to us and the point of the model is really to help give you guidance on how to deal with the situation, which we are doing,” she said.
“We can't predict right now what is going to happen because a model is just that, a model. We are dealing with what is happening in the real world.”
Elliott acknowledged that the increase in new cases today in Ontario was “quite significant” but added that the province is still working through a backlog in cases.
“(The backlog) was about 10,000 about a week ago, right now it is about 3,100. The cases that are currently being diagnosed are really historic cases looking back at what's happened over the last week to 10 days,” she said.
“What is going to be most important is what we are going to see when the backlog is cleared over the next day or so. We will then be dealing with current information and that is what is going to tell us where we are in terms of flattening the curve.”
The province reported 426 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in Ontario to 2,392, including 37 deaths and 689 recoveries.
The province’s numbers have routinely been out of sync with information from the province’s 34 local health units and on Tuesday, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health acknowledged that the ministry is working with “out of date” information.
As of Wednesday morning, Ontario’s local public health units collectively reported 31 more deaths than the province’s total.
Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the province doesn’t want to “confuse” the public with the models they currently have.
“It is a logarithmic scale and that means it moves up exponentially very quickly and in those early steps if you move it just a slight percentage here or there, you go like the States, 100,000 to 200,000, and we want to be a bit more exact than that,” Williams said.
“That means as we get more data coming in and we get further up the curve a bit, we can get more accurate projections from our modellers.”
He said the province hopes to release something to the public next week.
“We are hoping to get something back out by next week that we have another full five days of some data,” he added.
“It equips them with a bit more to say which projection are we on? Are we on an Italy-type project or are we on a South Korea-type projection or somewhere in between? We are really asking them if they can be a bit more concise.”