The trajectory of Ontario’s COVID-19 infections now has two distinct paths.
It appears to have peaked and is under control in the general community, health authorities said Monday. But the number of new infections is still growing in long-term care homes, homeless shelters and other institutions.
“We’ve been very successful — you’ve been very successful — in helping us to control the spread,” Matt Anderson, CEO of Ontario Health, told a press conference in Toronto.
Even so, the state of emergency will need to remain in place until at least May 12. Non-essential businesses will stay closed and gatherings of more than five people will continue to be banned.
“We are not done. We have more to do,” Anderson said.
“Our public health measures are working. And we need them to keep them working.”
The province now expects to see fewer than 20,000 total cases of COVID-19. That number is far below the Ontario government’s previous projection, which anticipated 80,000 total cases and 1,600 deaths based on the number that had been diagnosed in March.
Ontario’s pandemic curve is following the “best case scenario” that had been laid out about two weeks ago.
That’s good news for a number of reasons, Anderson said.
“Our public health measures are working. And we need them to keep them working,” he said.
“The second part of that story is we can use that additional capacity to help in other parts of society or other parts of our system.”
Ontario can now reallocate some resources from its hospitals to help long-term care homes, he said. And the government is starting to look at putting elective procedures, all of which were suspended in mid-March, back on the schedule.
Premier Doug Ford thanked Ontarians for their efforts Monday and said his government was working on a “gradual, measured” plan to restart the economy.
“Thanks to our collective efforts — thanks to all of you — we have so far avoided the worst case scenario that we were all dreading. We’ve avoided the devastation that we witnessed in other countries,” Ford said at his daily press conference.
“I know many are eager to go back to work or school, back to visiting our friends and loved ones, back to our normal lives. And we will get there, working together.”
Distancing measures to be lifted gradually
Ford suggested that measures will be lifted in two-week waves and said to expect more details about that this week.
Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health stressed there is no magic “off” button for physical distancing.
“It will be very gradual and we will have to measure the impact of each change as we make it … Because once we lift it, it will be very hard to go back,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe said.
Ontario is hoping to avoid a second wave of infections by lifting the extreme public health measures — which have seen all non-essential businesses close for weeks — carefully and slowly, she said.
“We need to remember that as Ontarians, we are in this together and remember that lives are at stake.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said it is important for Ontarians to keep following the rules.
“The truth is, in the coming days and weeks we are going to be more tempted than ever as the weather gets nicer, as the strain of being isolated weighs on us and as we see other countries begin to loosen the rules,” she said.
“Rest assured, we are actively planning what comes next … but as we do, we need to continue to make the right choices that respond to our own situation here in Ontario. We need to remember that as Ontarians, we are in this together and remember that lives are at stake.”
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