Ontario is reporting 2,336 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday (an increase of 11.6 per cent from the previous day) and 14 new deaths (an increase of 40 per cent from the previous day), with nearly 36,100 tests completed (the COVID-19 positivity rate is at 6.2 per cent — a 0.1 per cent increase from the previous day).
Tuesday’s numbers include 727 new cases in Toronto, 434 in Peel, 229 in York Region, 194 in Durham, 144 in Ottawa, and 123 in Hamilton.
This marks the sixth day that the case count has been above 2,000. The latest numbers come as Ontario reported its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since early February: as of Tuesday, 1,090 patients are in hospital due to the virus (the previous high was 1,101 patients in hospital on February 4).
In a press conference today, Premier Doug Ford said he will not hesitate to impose restrictions again.
“Everything’s on the table – be prepared. I am asking you don’t make plans for Easter – I won’t hesitate to lock things down if I have to. I did it before, I will do it again,” he said.
A new report released on Monday from Ontario’s science advisory table suggests that new variants of concern now account for 67 per cent of all Ontario SARS-CoV-2 infections. Compared with early variants of SARS-CoV-2, these new variants are associated with a 63 per cent increased risk of hospitalization, a 103 per cent increased risk of ICU admission, and a 56 per cent increased risk of death due to COVID-19.
“The new VOCs [variants of concern] will result in a considerably higher burden to Ontario’s health-care system during the third wave compared to the impact of early SARS-CoV-2 variants during Ontario’s second wave,” the report warns.
The report shows that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is now 21 per cent higher than it was at the start of the province-wide lockdown, while ICU occupancy is 28 per cent higher. The percentage of COVID-19 patients in ICUs who are younger than 60 years old is about 50 per cent higher now than it was prior to the start of the province-wide lockdown.
“Because the increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalization, ICU admission and death with VOCs is most pronounced 14 to 28 days after diagnosis, there will be significant delays until the full burden to the health-care system becomes apparent,” the report states.
“We have a highly dynamic opponent, much higher force of infection … and this just means that we really need to do much, much more than last summer,” says Prof. Peter Jüni of the variants of concern, which now make up 50% of cases in Ontario.
— IHPME (@ihpmeuoft) March 29, 2021
In the face of rising COVID numbers, Ford was asked about the possibility of postponing March Break (again) at a press conference on Monday.
“I can’t give you a direct answer right now,” Ford said, noting that his cabinet “will be keeping a sharp eye” on things.
“To be very frank, I don’t want to predict two weeks out, but we’ll be out here every single day, communicating with the people.”
March Break was initially postponed until April 12 to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to a report by The Globe and Mail, the Toronto District School Board reportedly sent an email to principals and vice-principals on Monday, stating that, with the long weekend and an April break coming up, staff should prepare for the possibility of moving to online learning for a period of time.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CBC News on Sunday, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, said that it’s not too early for provinces to start talking about another lockdown to reduce case numbers.
“Obviously, we know what the harms are and we know how devastating that can be on people’s mental health and on people’s financial health, but again, you can’t have a situation where your hospitals are overwhelmed,” Bogoch stated.
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