Ontario could see over 18,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by end of May: source
Cabinet considering a suite of proposals including closing non-essential retail
Ontario could see well over 18,000 new daily COVID-19 infections — despite continuing vaccinations — if current trends continue, CBC News has learned from a government source.
New modelling details show additional public health measures could bring that number down closer to 10,000, sources say, however those measures would have to be considerably more restrictive to curb the rate of infection.
The modelling also shows up to 1,800 patients in intensive care by the end of May, according to the sources.
Projections released by the province two weeks ago had forecast up to 12,000 new cases per day with around 800-1,000 people in ICU by the end of April.
The Ontario cabinet is also considering the following proposals, which have not yet been formally approved:
- Closing all non-essential retail, no curbside pick-up or delivery.
- Further restricting retail hours of operation.
- Restricting curbside pick-up (only permit non-essential retail to deliver).
- Shutting down non-essential construction, warehouses and manufacturing not related to health, food or automotive.
- Prohibiting all outdoor gatherings for non-family members in the same household.
- Tightening capacity of indoor events like places of worship, weddings and funerals.
- Increasing fines, increase policing powers.
Sources say Premier Doug Ford asked Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to send health-care workers to Ontario to help. Alberta has not yet made any commitments, the sources say.
Sources with knowledge of the request tell CBC News that Ford also made a similar request to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
CBC News has also learned Ontario will make a formal request to the federal government for more than 600 critical care staff to support the province's hospitals with ICU occupancy. The formal request has not happened yet.
"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.
According to sources, the Ministry of Health has requested access to additional provincial money to tackle the third wave of the pandemic.
In a request that has not yet been formally approved, sources say the ministry is asking for up to $346 million for more health workers to support the creation of 1,000 incremental critical care beds in Ontario hospitals with high COVID-19 in-patient and ICU numbers.
The ministry is also looking at redeploying 1,000 staff from hospitals with lower COVID-19 patients and ICU occupancy to those with the highest ICU and in-patients.
This proposal has also not yet been formally approved.
"Premier Ford has said from the very beginning of this pandemic, that all options are on the table," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Thursday. "And that continues to be our philosophy as a cabinet and a caucus."
Jones, however, acknowledged the challenges a curfew would present in Ontario, pointing to the anti-curfew protests in Quebec.
"I think the Montreal riots speak to the challenge of both enforcing, and people's willingness to do a curfew," she said.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said a curfew would not help the public health crisis, and urged the government not to go down that road.
"Imposing a curfew is an admission that the government has run out of ideas," said Cara Zwibel, director of fundamental freedoms at the CCLA. "It is an unnecessary and disproportionate measure that is likely to do more harm than good."
On Thursday night, sources with knowledge of the discussions told CBC News the cabinet has decided against imposing a curfew.
The cabinet is expected to resume meeting Friday to discuss imposing further measures.
Ford's cabinet met Thursday as the province reported a record 4,736 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 more related deaths.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus has sent 1,932 people to the province's hospitals despite a stay-at-home order. There are 659 patients in intensive care and 419 on ventilators.
Hospitals have been ramping down non-essential and non-urgent medical procedures this week to ensure they have the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.
The government said a COVID-19 field hospital could be opened in Toronto later this month.
The Ministry of Health said a mobile health unit at Sunnybrook Hospital, set up in the facility's parking lot, is expected to take patients in the coming weeks.
It is one of two field hospitals in the province designed to help address growing capacity challenges.
The province said the temporary beds will provide increased capacity to the health system as a whole by freeing up acute and critical care capacity within hospitals.
Variants surge in Grey-Bruce
The government said it will also help expand capacity by allowing the hospitals to transfer non-critical care patients to these general medicine beds.
Meanwhile, the Grey Bruce Health Unit told residents to stay home for the next two days as COVID-19 variants of concern surge in the region.
Public health authorities said all residents should consider themselves a COVID-19 carrier for the next 48 hours.
Authorities said the steps are necessary after 70 new cases were confirmed in the region in the past 36 hours.
The public health unit said it needs to slow the spread of the virus in order to do contact tracing.
It is also shutting down the Grey Bruce Health Unit info-line and cancelling a mass vaccination clinic on Saturday to redeploy staff to case management and contact tracing.
The province says 105,430 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Wednesday's update, bringing the total number of vaccinations to 3,528,404.
With files from CBC’s Parliamentary bureau and The Canadian Press