To protect the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians, the government is acting on the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Public Health Measures Table to put in place additional targeted public health measures in the Ottawa, Peel and Toronto by moving them into modified Stage 2 restrictions for a period of at least 28 days in response to higher than average rates of transmission.
Updated provincial modelling and new data shows that Ontario's health care system could be overwhelmed due to the rapid growth in COVID-19 cases, especially in certain areas if this dangerous trend continues. If it does, updated modelling shows the province could experience worst-case scenarios seen in northern Italy and New York City. The rise in transmission rates poses a significant risk to vulnerable populations, including seniors, school children, and those living in congregate care settings.
The number of cases and hospitalizations are trending upwards, with seven consecutive week-over-week increases in new infections per population, with especially steep increases in Ottawa, Peel and Toronto. Cases per 100,000 people are increasing, particularly in Toronto (58.7) and Ottawa (61.9 for the week of September 26, 2020). The increase in cases for these areas began mid-summer but have accelerated since then). Ontario's current COVID-19 case growth is on a similar trajectory to other jurisdictions that experienced significant second waves, including in Europe and Australia. The percentage of people testing positive is rising quickly on a provincial level, with some regions far above three per cent positivity, the international benchmark.
The percentage of residents with COVID-19 in some neighbourhoods is alarmingly high, especially in the Toronto, Peel and Ottawa regions, suggesting the possibility of broad community spread. The latest reports from public health units show the number of contacts for confirmed cases has reached as high as 100 people, which makes it very difficult to trace and isolate these cases. The high rates of COVID-19 in the community have led to an increasing number of outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes.
There is increasing spread of COVID-19 to older Ontarians after the initial surge in growth in the 20 to 29 age group. This has significant health consequences for older Ontarians. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions are climbing, which could make it more difficult to maintain regular services like scheduled surgeries.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up by 250 per cent over the past three weeks and Ontario ICU occupancy is predicted to exceed the threshold where the health care system can maintain scheduled surgeries and other acute care services, even in best case scenarios. These trends will accelerate if the spread continues into older populations.
Community spread has now reached 25 per cent while clustering of cases or multiple small outbreaks continues to grow in Ontario.These include long-term care homes, retirement homes, shelters, and other congregate settings. But a significant proportion of the outbreaks are also happening in workplace and community settings such as bars, restaurants, nightclubs and gyms.
Public health measures remain the most effective way to flatten the curve. The severity of a second wave will depend on our collective ability to continue following proper public health measures including practising physical distancing with those outside your household; wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or where it is mandatory to do so; washing your hands frequently and thoroughly; and following gathering limits and rules.
For additional protection, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.
For public inquiries call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only)