Premier Doug Ford says new computer modelling on the trajectory of COVID-19 shows it heading “downwards” after hitting back-to-back record highs on the weekend, including 1,042 cases Sunday.
“I wouldn’t go as far as flattening but we see it going in the right direction,” he told his daily news conference, revealing that new data will be presented by health officials Thursday.
The reassurance from Ford — who is under pressure over the closures of indoor dining and gyms in Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa — came as Ontario reported 834 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, a minimal increase of seven.
Testing was up 25 per cent as health officials continue looking for a drop in new infections suggesting the modified Stage 2 restrictions in the four hot zones are taking hold and reducing the spread of the virus.
But Ford was mindful of the last time he said the curve was being flattened — just days before the Thanksgiving Friday surge to a then-record 939 cases that prompted an abrupt reversal to impose a 28-day clampdown.
“I’ve said that before and it scares me because it comes back and bites you in the butt real quick if we don’t follow it up,” the premier acknowledged.
Experts later said a backlog in testing at the time hid the true picture of the spread of COVID-19, despite numerous warnings from Toronto Public Health and the Ontario Hospitalizations the pandemic was taking a bad turn.
Labs across the province processed 30,010 tests Tuesday with no backlog, an increase of about 6,000 from Monday but well below highs of around 48,000 and prompting concerns there is not enough testing.
“We see the curve going down, which is great news,” Ford added Wednesday, cautioning “just because we see it sloping down a bit doesn’t mean we can let our guard down” while expressing hopes more businesses can reopen soon.
Shortly after Ford spoke at Queen’s Park, Peel medical officer Dr. Lawrence Loh said a Thanksgiving surge in cases revealed in spiking numbers last weekend pushed the region into the second wave.
He urged residents to limit their in-person contacts and called on places of worship to return to virtual gatherings only, even though in-person services are allowed under the law.
“Assume that anyone else outside your immediate household could be carrying the virus,” Loh said.
Meanwhile, the possibility that Halton and Durham regions could join Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa in modified Stage 2 with bans on indoor dining and closures of gyms and theatres appeared less likely.
“The numbers in both Halton and Durham have remained relatively low,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Halton had 24 cases, up from 10, and Durham 26, down from 44 with Hamilton reported 18, an increase of four. There were 299 new cases in Toronto, 186 in Peel, 121 in York Region and 76 in Ottawa.
In total, the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area accounted for 81 per cent of the new cases, and 12 of the province’s 34 public health units reported no new cases — a proportion that is higher than usual.
The province is operating on a baseline of positive tests that is higher every day than the first wave of the pandemic last spring, when cases topped out at 640 on April 24.
Cases have not been below that level in three weeks and a record 7,474 Ontarians are fighting active cases of the virus after testing positive in the last 14 days.
There were five new deaths reported Tuesday, including two in nursing homes, raising the total to 3,108 since the first fatality in March. More than 72,885 cases of the virus have been confirmed and 62,303 are considered resolved, although many people who have had COVID-19 feel lingering effects.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care said 87 of the province’s 626 nursing homes remained in outbreak mode, a drop of one with another 32 additional residents and three staff diagnosed with COVID-19 raising the number of active cases to 396 and 297 respectively.
To date, 1,996 nursing-home residents have died from the virus,
Amid concerns that hospitals could fill up over the winter because of COVID-19 and the flu, there were 312 Ontarians in hospital for the novel coronavirus with 71 requiring intensive care and 51 on ventilators to breathe.
That is a marked increase from the same day in September, when there were 128 people hospitalized, 29 in ICU and 17 ventilated.
As has been the case for a few days, there were no schools closed because of outbreaks, but schools reported 92 more cases in students and staff and there were 595 of the province’s more than 4,800 schools with infections, or about 12 per cent of the total.