Ontario to release COVID-19 modelling; Ford says numbers will be hard to hear

By Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ontario will release data Friday showing how many Ontarians could die from COVID-19 in various scenarios, Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday, warning that the projections will be hard to hear.

Ford had resisted calls to release that modelling as recently as Wednesday, saying there were many different scenarios, but said medical experts will now provide a public briefing.

“Over the next little while we will all have to make some very, very difficult decisions and you deserve the same information I have,” Ford said.

“You deserve to see the same data that I see when I’m making decisions. You deserve to know what I know when you’re making decisions for yourself, your family and your community.”

Ford said the numbers may be “a real wake-up call” to people who may be tempted to pack the beaches and the parks as the weather gets nicer.

“The truth is the situation is extremely, extremely serious,” Ford said. “Right now our best defence is to stay home, self isolate and don’t go out. It is a matter of life and death.”

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health needed time to compile figures that take into account the large influx of people, including snowbirds, returning to Canada and develop an accurate model, Ford said.

Nationally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he isn’t able to share a national picture yet, but will be able to soon.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the modelling will give people an idea of what to prepare for, of worst-case scenarios and how to shift the forecasts.

“I think the numbers, as always, will be challenging as people see what might progress,” he said. “If people see what might be possible, could be possible and what we might achieve through our ongoing energy and efforts of public health measures, physical distancing, it means we need to stay at the task and do our part to flatten the curve and impact that and change the projection as best we can.”

Ontario reported 401 more COVID-19 cases Thursday, including 16 more deaths.

A Bobcaygeon nursing home also reported two more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there, bringing the total to 16. The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

There are many other outbreaks in such facilities across the province — at least 26 in long-term care homes and eight in retirement homes, said associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, who acknowledged those figures are likely an under representation.

The outbreaks include one with eight deaths in Toronto, one in Aria with four deaths and one in Hagersville with three deaths.

Also on Thursday afternoon, a hospital in Oshawa, Ont., confirmed it has a COVID-19 outbreak in one of its in-patient units.

Lakeridge Health did not say how many patients tested positive for the virus or identify the unit affected.

“Consistent with established protocols for managing outbreaks in institutions, the unit is temporarily closed to admissions,” the hospital said in a statement. “The individuals who have tested positive have been appropriately isolated, are receiving care and being monitored by the (Durham Region Health Department).”

Provincewide, there are now 2,793 cases of COVID-19, including 53 deaths and 831 resolved.

Ontario reported that 405 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 167 in intensive care, and 112 of those patients are on ventilators.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s backlog of pending test results continues to drop as more testing capacity is added — from 3,135 Wednesday to 2,052 Thursday.

The province also announced Thursday an investment of $12 million to expand online and virtual mental health supports.

“I know that staying home is no small ask,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “There are many for whom isolation brings unique challenges for their mental health — anxiety, depression, a growing sense of loneliness or helplessness.”

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey announced $2.7 million on Thursday for community agencies to support victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province is also investing $1.3 million in technology to help courts and tribunals operate remotely.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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