COVID-19 infections in Toronto this month could exceed peak reached in April, data suggests
'Things can get much worse' in November if virus left unchecked, medical officer of health says
COVID-19 infections in Toronto could exceed the peak number reached in April later this month, get "much worse" in November and reach a peak in early March to early May next year, new modelling data from Toronto Public Health suggests.
In a presentation at city hall on Wednesday, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, outlined the potential impact of public-health interventions, with modelling data suggesting that measures implemented now will curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in months to come.
De Villa said Toronto Public Health (TPH) is measuring the rate of change in the outbreak and developing projections through the reproduction number known as R. She said R is a measure of viral transmission, which means how many people one person will infect on average..
If R is below one, each new case results in less than one new infection and the outbreak will slowly die out. If R is at one, the amount of illness is considered stable, she said.
"My team has calculated our current reproductive number, or R, at 1.2, so the outbreak is growing. The province, by comparison, estimates Toronto's R even higher at 1.4, meaning they are estimating that the outbreak is growing even faster," de Villa told reporters.
"With our level of transmission, or an R of 1.2, we expect to see disease activity in the next few weeks of October that would exceed our April peak. But then, if the virus is left unchecked, heading into November, things can get much worse. Infections continue to rise week over week, peaking between early March and early May 2021."
De Villa said public health measures drive down transmission rates, but it takes four weeks for the impact of those measures to appear.
New modelling data by TPH maps out how public health measures would affect case counts using different intervention dates, the end of October, the end of November and the end of December.
"If we add measures to control COVID-19 spread at the end of October, by the end of May 2021, the total number of people infected would be six times lower compared to a scenario of taking no action," de Villa said.
"If actions weren't undertaken until the end of November, the total infections would be three times lower, compared to taking no action. If actions were implemented at the end of December, the latest date simulated for intervention, this still cuts the total infections by May 2021 almost in half."
De Villa said later in response to a question: "The earlier you intervene, the better the outcomes in terms of active infections and the numbers that are generated thereafter. It's that simple."
De Villa added that personal actions matter very much as the pandemic continues and people do not have to wait until the outbreak gets worse to protect themselves.
"Your actions — the choices you make — play a significant part in arresting and even reversing the spread of COVID-19."
Toronto reports 187 new COVID-19 cases
The medical officer of health reported that Toronto had 187 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a number that brings the city's cumulative total to 21,315.
A total of 17,700 people have recovered from the virus.
According to the city's status of cases in Toronto page, 1,308 people have died of COVID-19 in the city, one more than Tuesday. A total of 83 people are in hospital.
There are 13 active outbreaks in health-care institutions, 11 in shelters, 80 in community and workplace settings, eight in child care centres and six in schools.
Spend Thanksgiving with your household only, city says
At the news briefing, de Villa repeated her assertion that Toronto residents should spend Thanksgiving with people in their households only. Limit interactions because it is the best thing that residents can do for themselves and the community, she said.
"I know my advice isn't easy to take, but it is the best course of action. Spend Thanksgiving this year with just the people you live with under the same roof," she said.
"If you live alone, the best thing to do is to connect with other people virtually. Yes, the situation is that serious," she added.
"This year, no one should make the mistake of being in a crowded room full of people they don't live with. It just isn't worth it."
If people need to meet other people because of mental health needs, de Villa said they should meet outside, keep their distance and wear masks.
"Do not get together to eat, or drink," she said.
With files from Muriel Draaisma, Lauren Pelley