Ontario records 4,812 new COVID-19 cases as Ford government eyes new restrictions

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to make an announcement at 2:30 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. Ford’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of health and labour, the solicitor general and the chief medical officer of health.

Shortly before, at 1 p.m. ET, Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table will present its latest modelling.

You’ll be able to watch both news conferences in this story.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet are set to meet again Friday morning to consider further COVID-19 restrictions to combat a worsening third wave that is pushing the province’s health-care system to the breaking point.

The meeting comes ahead of a scheduled briefing from the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table that is expected to include stark new forecasts for the weeks ahead.

A government source told CBC News revised modelling suggests Ontario could see up to 18,000 daily cases of COVID-19 by the end of May if current trends continue unabated, even with help from the province’s ongoing vaccination campaign. 

The projections show that cases could be limited to about 10,000 per day if additional public health measures are implemented. However, they would have to be considerably more restrictive than what’s currently in place to curb the rate of infection, the source said.

Sources with knowledge of the discussions said Ford and his ministers are debating the following proposals on top of the stay-at-home order and shutdown already in place:

  • Closing all non-essential retail, no curbside pickup or delivery.
  • Further restricting retail hours of operation.
  • Restricting curbside pickup (only permit non-essential retail to deliver).
  • Shutting down non-essential construction, warehouses and manufacturing not related to health, food or automotive.
  • Tightening capacity of indoor events like places of worship, weddings and funerals.
  • Increasing fines, increase policing powers.

Cabinet met late into the night Thursday. Sources said they talked about the option of a curfew but ultimately decided against it.

Sources spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Ontario reported 4,812 more cases of COVID-19 this morning, the most ever on a single day, marking three straight days of new peaks. Admissions to hospitals climbed to 1,955, while the number of people being treated for COVID-related illnesses in intensive care rose to 701, both all-time highs since the pandemic began.

According to Critical Care Services Ontario, a government agency that compiles a daily report for hospitals, 74 more people with COVID-19 were admitted to ICUs on Thursday alone, again the highest number ever on a single day in the province.

Public health units also reported the deaths of 25 more people with COVID-19, bringing the official toll to 7,664. The seven-day average of deaths is up to 21.7 per day, a new third-wave peak. The seven-day average for daily deaths reached its highest point of more than 60 in mid-January, before most residents of long-term care and retirement homes had been vaccinated. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said this week that the province is trying to open up hundreds of additional ICU beds in coming days and weeks. 

Sources said Ontario intends to make a formal request to the federal government for more than 600 critical care staff to support front-line efforts in hospitals.

“We have received Ontario’s draft letter,” said Mary-Liz Power, spokesperson for federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

“We are currently in discussions with the province to determine how best we can support them with more resources,” she said, adding that the federal government is working closely with all provinces and territories to help support them amid the pandemic. 

In Toronto, where the pressure on health-care providers has reached a crisis point, multiple hospitals are preparing for a continued influx of patients in the weeks ahead. 

Sunnybrook Hospital, where a field hospital was constructed in a parking lot earlier this month, says it will be prepared to begin accepting patients as early as Monday. The unit has capacity for up to about 80 beds, and a spokesperson for the hospital said it will largely cater to patients who have already been in hospital for some time and their COVID-19 symptoms have subsided.

Transfers to the field hospital will free up critical care beds in the city, the spokesperson said.

A field hospital was built in the parking lot of Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto earlier this month. A spokesperson said the temporary facility will be ready to help patients next week. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Meanwhile, tents are being set up outside the emergency departments of Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals to limit overcrowding in waiting rooms at the two facilities.

On Thursday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he had spoken with the mayors of Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga — cities home to many communities severely impacted by COVID-19 — about further supports that could be available, particularly with respect to vaccinations.

This week has seen three major health networks in Toronto temporarily shut down vaccination clinics due to a lack of stable supply.

Public health units collectively administered 115,634 doses of vaccines yesterday, also a new high for the province. As of yesterday evening, a total of 341,933 people have gotten both shots.

Ontario has now used 3,644,038, or 75 per cent, of the 4,852,885 doses of vaccines it has received from the federal government to date. More than 700,000 of those total doses arrived in the province this week. 

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