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'A glimmer of hope': Health officials expect number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario to start going down soon

The number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario should start going down soon based on a prediction from modellers that a peak is expected this week, said Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health.

There are now 7,470 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, health officials reported Monday

More deaths at long-term care homes were reported last weekend as the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario topped 7,000. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario should start going down soon based on a prediction from modellers that a peak is expected this week, said Barbara Yaffe, the province's associate chief medical officer of health.

"The modellers have told us that the peak is likely going to happen this week — that's assuming all the measures in place continue," Yaffe said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

"I think, if they're in fact correct and things continue, after a peak usually things go down … so that does give me a glimmer of hope but with some caution built in."

WATCH: Dr. Barbara Yaffe says Ontario bracing for a peak in COVID-19 cases this week:

Barbara Yaffe, the province's associate chief medical officer of health, says the province's modelling numbers predict a peak of COVID-19 cases in Ontario this week. 0:48

There are now 7,470 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, with just two days to go before the province expects to be processing 8,000 tests per day.

Health officials added 421 new cases to Ontario's tally on Monday. Of the province's total, 760 patients are in hospital and 263 are in an intensive care unit.

Yaffe said there have been 291 deaths from COVID-19 across the province, an increase of 17 from the previous day.

"This is why we must all do to flatten the curve and to beat COVID-19," Yaffe said.

"We have to keep working at the physical distancing and all the measures that we have in place."

344 deaths province-wide, according to CBC count

CBC News has counted 344 deaths province-wide, based on data collected from local health units across Ontario.*

Last week, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott laid out Ontario's new testing strategy, which involves targeting vulnerable groups like long-term care home residents and first responders. 

The government's goal is to process 8,000 tests a day by Wednesday and 16,000 a day by May 6 — a major jump from last week, which saw 4,097 new test results reported on Thursday and 5,573 on Friday.

Ford described Ontario's struggles to implement widespread testing as frustrating, but said he expects the province to reach its coming targets for testing rates.

He said the province's expanded ability to test should begin with front-line workers, staff at long-term care facilities and seniors.

"Let's just get out there and test, test, test," he said.

WATCH: Premier Doug Ford calls for more testing to be done in Ontario:

Premier Doug Ford tells reporters that he is "frustrated" more daily COVID-19 tests are not taking place in Ontario. 1:31

New deaths at long-term care homes

Scarborough's Seven Oaks long-term care home reported six additional deaths Monday, bringing the facility's total to 22 deaths during its outbreak.

Seven Oaks has 82 confirmed cases among 249 residents and 14 confirmed cases among 200 staff.

Schlegel Villages, which manages long-term care and retirement homes around Ontario, issued a news release Sunday afternoon announcing five new COVID-19 deaths at two different facilities: two at Erin Meadows in Mississauga and three at Humber Heights in Etobicoke. A fourth death at Humber Heights was later reported. 

In total, there have been 11 deaths at Schlegel facilities, and just under 40 staff members and 40 residents are reportedly infected with the virus. 

We also learned on Sunday about the deaths of five residents at the Chartwell Gibson Long-term Care Residence in North York, Ont. and about the first death of a long-term care home resident in the London, Ont. area.

Death toll at Almonte Country Haven climbs to 16

In Almonte, Ont., southwest of Ottawa, officials at Almonte Country Haven said two residents have died from COVID-19 related complications, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths there to 16. 

"My heart goes out to the families and our entire care team as we grapple with these losses together," the long-term care home's administrator, Carolyn DellaForesta, said in a statement.

She said they are "responding appropriately to the outbreak" and continue to share crucial information with other homes in the province. 

Fix long-term care staffing, Horwath says

Meanwhile, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the province can save lives with a directive to have long-term care employees each work in one home only, and pay them enough to be able to do that. 

"We do need to do everything possible to protect seniors in long-term care," Horwath said in a news release Monday. 

"From the beginning of this pandemic, we should have restricted workers to one long-term care or group living facility each, and mandated higher wages and scheduling practices that would allow them to do that.

"If the premier is now also worried about the low wages paid to health-care heroes in long-term care, there's a simple solution: give them a raise. Now," Horwath added.

Ford says supply chain improving

Amid concerns of shortages over personal protective equipment (PPE) and a strained global supply chain for medical equipment, Ford said Ontario is finding success procuring much-needed equipment, including masks, gloves and ventilators.

"This is something I've been laser focused on," he said at Monday's news briefing.

Ford said Ontario has secured 13 million surgical masks over the past five days, including the arrival of seven million surgical masks on Monday morning.

He also thanked Alberta, which on Saturday announced it would send 250,000 N95 masks, 2.5 million surgical masks, 15 million gloves, 87,000 goggles and 50 ventilators to Ontario.

"I want to thank my good friend Premier Jason Kenney and the people of Alberta for this generous donation," Ford said.

WATCH: Premier Doug Ford says residents should continue observing physical distancing guidelines:

Premier Ford told reporters during an April 13 press conference that he is "nervous" to lift any physical distancing measures in Ontario. 1:46

Toronto's busiest parks start to empty out

After an enforcement blitz over the weekend, Toronto officials say gatherings in parks are on a downward trend in the city as people get the hang of physical distancing. 

In a statement, the city said officers issued 48 tickets to people who weren't following physical distancing rules at city parks on Sunday. 

It also said that officers noticed "lighter use" of busy parks, and that the number of complaints being called into 311 had gone down — though there were still some issues in Trinity Bellwoods Park and along the waterfront. 

On Saturday, the city said that officers would begin immediately issuing tickets, rather than trying to educate residents first.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, parks and playgrounds are off-limits, and families living in high-rise apartments say they're struggling with the lack of access to green spaces. 

GO ridership down 90%

On Monday, Ontario's regional transit agency said ridership on the GO bus and rail network is down to approximately 33,000 people per day, a 90 per cent decrease since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Metrolinx, which operates GO Transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, says ridership dipped to those levels last week and has stayed there as people continue to work from home and self-isolate.

A spokesperson for the agency says that means ridership is down approximately 297,000 people per day on the transit system.

Prior to the pandemic, daily ridership on GO Transit was approximately 330,000 people.

Revenue has also plunged for the agency, down to $1.1 million a week from $11 million weekly prior to the pandemic.

Three GO Transit workers have tested positive for the virus, with another three having probable cases.

*CBC has gathered death and hospitalization rates in Ontario directly from public health units across the province. The numbers reported by the Ontario government will sometimes appear lower, due to a lag in the provincial reporting system.  

With files from The Canadian Press

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