POLITICS
03/30/2020 16:19 EDT | Updated 03/30/2020 18:32 EDT

Doug Ford Warns Of Medical Supply Shortage If COVID-19 Cases Surge

Ontario has more than 1,700 cases of the novel coronavirus.

TORONTO — Ontario reported 351 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths Monday, as Premier Doug Ford warned that the province could soon face a shortage of critical medical supplies.

Officials are “working every contact we have” to secure more equipment such as masks and gloves for front-line workers, Ford said, but the more time Ontario gets to prepare, the more lives will be saved.

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford answers questions about COVID-19 at Queen's Park in Toronto on March 30, 2020.

“It will take time for local production to ramp up and for new supplies to reach us,” Ford said.

“The reality is if there’s a massive surge of people coming into our hospitals in the next two weeks, our supply lines will be seriously challenged.”

About 10 per cent of people in the province who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far have been hospitalized, provincial figures show.

There are 100 people in intensive care units right now who are confirmed to have COVID-19 and 61 of them are on ventilators, said associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe.

The new total of cases in the province is now at 1,706 — including 431 resolved cases and 33 deaths.

Yaffe said information on the 10 new deaths is incomplete at the moment, but the regions that have seen more deaths include Haliburton, Lambton, Haldimand Norfolk and Huron Perth. She couldn’t say if the Haliburton death was related to a nursing home outbreak in the region.

Seven deaths at one nursing home

Seven of the province’s deaths occurred in one nursing home in Bobcaygeon, which the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit believes is the largest outbreak in the province.

At least 24 staff members are infected, with another 10 awaiting test results.

Three residents at Pinecrest Nursing Home tested positive and since then, more than 30 other residents developed symptoms, though they have not been tested — per provincial guidelines — since the virus was already confirmed to be in the facility.

Another person in the community has died in a case linked to the nursing home.

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford talks with Health Minister Christine Elliott and Finance Minister Rod Phillips while inspecting personal protective equipment supplies at a warehouse in Toronto on March 29, 2020.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said she is looking at more intense screening for long-term care homes and more advanced ways to isolate people infected at those facilities.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health strongly recommended Monday that everyone in the province — especially people over 70 and with compromised immune systems — stay home except for essential reasons.

“The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community’s most vulnerable citizens, (are) in your hands and will depend on your actions over the coming days and weeks,” Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

Ford reiterated Monday that he is prepared to take further action, lamenting that he saw “the streets were packed” on the previous day’s sunny afternoon, but that he is waiting for advice from Williams.

The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community’s most vulnerable citizens, (are) in your hands and will depend on your actions.Dr. David Williams

Ford also said he would be extending the state of emergency, which had been set to expire Tuesday, and orders many facilities closed, including daycares, libraries, and bars and restaurants except to do take-out or delivery.

Officials attributed the surge in new cases Monday at least in part to clearing a backlog of pending test results.

Several days ago there were nearly 11,000 people waiting for their results, but that started to come down as the province added more testing capacity. As of Monday the number stood at 5,651.

The number of resolved cases had been stuck at eight for many days, but health officials had said to expect a large jump once the data caught up to a new definition for resolved.

A new reporting format from the province also shows that more than 61 per cent of all cases are in the Greater Toronto Area.

Information on how people became infected is still pending for nearly half of all cases in Ontario. About 16 per cent are attributed to community spread, 26 per cent to recent travel, and nearly 10 per cent to close contact with another confirmed case.

The median age of people infected is 50, with cases ranging in age from under one year old to 100 years old.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

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