Ontario may have started to bend the COVID-19 curve, top doctor hints

TORONTO — Ontario’s top doctor is hinting the province may have started bending the curve as the province logged fewer than 4,000 new infections on Thursday.

The province confirmed 3,682 new cases of the novel coronavirus today, representing a significant drop from the 4,212 infections reported on Wednesday. 

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams made the comments during a news conference on Thursday, saying there are indications that the province might be starting to bend the curve.

“We are in this very precarious transition time. Are we in a plateau? Some things are plateauing and some things are dipping down a bit,” Williams told reporters. “Our reproductive number has reduced from 1.2 to 1.073.”

“These are indications that we might be starting to bend the curve a bit, but it has not been enough time yet. We are just starting to see the impact of the stay-at-home order and we need to watch it closely.”

He said he’s hopeful that over the weekend the province may see “further plateauing” of the case numbers.

“The harder we do this and the better we bend the curve, the less people go to the hospitals and the less they fill up our ICUs,” he said.

Ontario’s rolling seven-day average now stands at 4,176, down from 4,208 at this point last week.

The province’s positivity rate also dropped slightly on Thursday. With 54,246 tests processed in the last 24 hours, the Ontario Ministry of Health said its COVID-19 positivity rate fell from 10 per cent on Tuesday and 7.9 per cent on Wednesday to 7.8 per cent today.

Health officials also reported that 40 more people have died in Ontario due to COVID-19. In total, the province has seen 7,829 deaths related to the novel coronavirus.

The drop in cases comes as the province reports a record-high number of people in intensive care. Officials stated the number of patients in the ICU passed the 800 mark for the first time since the pandemic began.

The province reported on Thursday that 2,350 people are currently in hospital due to the disease. At least 806 of these patients are in ICUs and 588 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Williams issued a directive on Wednesday night asking hospitals to halt all non-emergency surgeries and non-urgent procedures immediately as COVID-19 continues to overwhelm the health-care system.

The province deemed 4,597 more cases of the disease to be resolved as of Thursday, bringing Ontario’s number of recovered patients up to 383,014.

Thursday’s report brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario to 432,805, including deaths and recoveries.

Where are the COVID-19 cases in Ontario?

Most of the new cases reported on Thursday are concentrated in hot spot regions in the Greater Toronto Area. Officials reported 1,131 new cases in Toronto, 507 in Peel Region and 436 in York Region.

Several other regions reported new infection totals in the triple digits on Thursday. Ottawa reported 279 cases, Durham Region reported 200, Niagara Region reported 165, Hamilton reported 144 new cases, Halton Region reported 129 new cases, and Middlesex-London reported 113 cases.

The Ontario government entered a provincewide stay-at-home order earlier this month in order to curb the spread of the deadly disease. The province introduced more COVID-19 restrictions and enforcement measures last week.

In addition to extending the stay-at-home order until at least May 20, Ontario Premier Doug Ford also announced the closure of playgrounds and granted expanded powers to police, allowing them to randomly stop people on the streets and in their vehicles to ask why they had left their homes during the stay-at-home order.

Ford took back the playground and enforcement measures shortly after the announcement following an outcry from civil liberties groups and health experts.

On Thursday, Ford formally apologized to Ontario residents for taking those measures.

“I know that some of those measures, especially around enforcement, they went too far,” Ford said at the virtual news conference Thursday. “Simply, we got it wrong. We made a mistake.”

Variants in Ontario

The province reported 2,810 new cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K. variant) in Ontario on Thursday. The total case count for the strain now stands at 44,205.

Officials identified five new cases of the B.1.351 (South African variant), and so the total case count in the province rose to 113.

In addition, the province added six more cases of the P.1 (Brazilian variant) on Thursday, which brings its total number of cases to 218.

More than 350K people fully vaccinated in Ontario

The province reports that 351,354 people in Ontario have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and are now considered vaccinated against the disease.

In the last 24-hour period, officials said that 134,920 doses of the vaccine were administered to residents in the province.

Backstory:

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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