Toronto reports record 850 COVID-19 cases, city officials consider enhanced restrictions
Single-day record comes 5 days before lockdown scheduled to expire
Toronto saw a single-day record of new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, as city officials say they are considering enhanced restrictions to curb "alarming" numbers ahead of the holidays.
"We have to go back to the behaviour we adopted in the spring," Toronto Mayor John Tory said at the city's COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
"We don't want to look back at Christmas 2020 ashamed that we collectively didn't do the right thing in this region."
Ontario reported a total of 2,139 new cases, 780 of which were attributed to Toronto in the province's figures. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa updated that number at the city's briefing, saying Toronto has seen 850 new cases in the past day.
This comes just five days before Toronto is supposed to clear its 28-day lockdown period on Dec. 21.
However, indicators measuring the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic are not yet showing signs of improvement, raising the spectre of prolonged or heightened restrictions stretching into the foreseeable future.
Asked earlier Wednesday if the city plans to impose enhanced restrictions as the holidays loom, Tory said provincial and city officials have been in talks about how to address "what is a very alarming situation," adding that a decision on whether or not to extend the lockdown period is expected by the end of the week.
Enhanced work from home measures possible
Tory said the strain on the health-care system and recent COVID-19 figures reflect that the spread of the virus "is not abating in the manner that we would have liked," and that city-wide restrictions regarding working from home might be a necessary step.
Specifically, he highlighted the approach being taken in Quebec, where, as of Thursday, working from home will be mandatory for most office employees, at least until Jan. 11. Additionally, for the two weeks after Christmas, all non-essential stores will be closed.
WATCH | Mayor John Tory speaks about possible COVID-19 restrictions over the holidays:
He also added that Toronto officials are considering shutting down city programs that are still operating "to send the signal that we want to give you fewer places to go so that you can stay home."
"We've seen that we can set a good example for ourselves and affect the numbers positively in the winter and spring," Tory told reporters.
"I'm certainly one that believes we need to the maximum amount that we can feasibly and properly do ... so that we can really use the Christmas period to wrestle this thing more to the ground."
In a statement issued Wednesday, Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy echoed Tory, saying tougher restrictions are needed for Toronto to "beat this second wave."
"We need enhanced protections for essential front-line workers and marginalized communities from all three levels of government. That includes measures like paid sick leave and income supports," he said.
In the past month alone, Cressy said weekly average case counts have risen by 40 per cent, while hospitalizations have increased by 36 per cent.
Toronto releases updated modelling data
De Villa also detailed new COVID-19 modelling numbers for Toronto on Wednesday, which reflect trends in the city since January.
It took nine months, between January 25 and October 25, for the city to reach 25,000 cases. In the eight weeks that followed those cases have more than doubled.
"I'm sorry to say how clearly it speaks for itself," de Villa said, imploring people once again to stay home during the holidays.
"Our call to action has never been clearer."
She also highlighted how much more people are moving around in Toronto now in comparison to the city's first lockdown in the spring. You can take a look at that trend in the graph below.
Toronto surpasses 50,000 cases
Meanwhile, the city passed another grim milestone on Wednesday, with the number of cases in Toronto surpassing 50,000 for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other notable COVID-19 figures reported in Toronto on Wednesday include:
- 281 people in hospital.
- 68 people in intensive care.
- 19 new deaths.
De Villa said the youngest person to have been admitted to hospital in the past day is 23 years old. Among the 19 people who died, the youngest was 47 years old.