On April 3, 2020, President and CEO of Public Health Ontario Dr. Peter Donnelly, held a media briefing on the public release of Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling. Dr. Donnelly was joined by Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health.
Following the media briefing by health officials, Premier Doug Ford announced that the Ontario government is reducing the list of businesses classified as essential and ordering more workplaces to close. Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott; Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams; and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips. Among new businesses ordered to close are cannabis stores and several construction sites.
COVID-19 Modelling Data
This afternoon, President and CEO of Public Health Ontario Dr. Peter Donnelly held a media briefing on the public release of Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling. The modelling presented was developed by experts from Ontario Health and Public Health Ontario, as well as researchers from Ontario universities. The data presented today has informed the recommendations of Ontario’s COVID-19 Command Table as well as the actions of the Ontario government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Donnelly was clear that the public health measures taken so far have made a significant difference. However, he urged Ontarians to remain focused on staying home and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the weeks ahead. He also explained that the full duration of the pandemic may be 18 months to two years due to secondary and tertiary waves of the virus.
Dr. Donnelly emphasized the high mortality rate of COVID-19 among those over the age of 80 (16% nationally) and over the age of 70 (10% globally). He emphasized the importance of protecting elderly populations in light of this information.
The trajectory of total COVID-19 cases in Ontario, when compared to other jurisdictions, is similar to that of the United States and not quite as good as British Columbia, which currently appears to be stemming the daily increase in cases. Dr. Donnelly added that tracking the total number of cases can be difficult as it is dependent on who is tested for the virus.
Public Health Ontario predicts that Ontario’s total death toll resulting from COVID-19 may have been as high as 100,000, had the province taken no action to curb the spread. However, Dr. Donnelly emphasized that a great deal has already been done to limit the eventual death toll and that this number can be reduced to between 3,000 and 15,000, depending on Ontarians’ commitment to following the advice of medical professionals and the federal and provincial governments.
Under Ontario’s current level of intervention, the modelling demonstrates that there could be 80,000 cases of COVID-19 in the province by the end of April and about 1,600 deaths resulting from cases contracted during the month of April. With enhanced measures, these April figures can be reduced to 12,500 cases and about 250 deaths.
The current number of COVID-19 cases is expected to push past Ontario’s current ICU capacity this weekend. The current available capacity of Ontario ICUs is 410 beds, and 900 additional beds are planned for COVID-19 patients. In a best-case scenario, the confirmed number of cases requiring intensive care will approach, but not exceed, Ontario’s expanded ICU capacity. In a worst-case scenario, cases requiring intensive care will greatly exceed ICU capacity.
In order to further curb the spread of COVID-19, Ontario is taking the following immediate measures:
- Enhancing the capacity for case and contact tracing;
- Increased testing for COVID-19, with a focus on long-term care, retirement homes, and other congregate settings, and;
- Reducing the number and types of essential workplaces.
Ontario will consider taking the following future measures:
- Enhancing focus on enforcement and fines for non-compliance;
- Expanded direction and guidance on physical distancing, including in retail settings;
- Enhanced support for elderly, homeless, and other vulnerable populations and communities;
- Implementing entry restrictions in some communities including First Nations;
- Moving health care workers between settings;
- Using technology such as emergency alerts to reinforce self-isolation, and;
- Additional public education and communication.
Extension of Business Closures
Following the media briefing by health officials, Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario is reducing the list of businesses classified as essential and ordering more workplaces to close.
Effective tomorrow, April 4, at 11:59 p.m., all businesses not covered by the updated Emergency Order will be ordered to close. The closure will be in effect for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension. All supply chains necessary for the production of vital food and health care supplies remain intact.
Among the businesses that will be required to close as a result of the updated list are cannabis stores in Ontario. The online Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) will remain open for purchases of legal recreational cannabis.
All non-essential industrial construction sites have also been ordered to close. Critical infrastructure projects such as hospitals, transportation, transit, energy, and justice projects will be permitted to remain open. Residential construction projects that are near-completion will also continue, however no new residential construction will be permitted. Construction sites remaining open will be placed under the highest amount of scrutiny possible to ensure that appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures are followed.
The updated list of essential businesses also restricts specified businesses to providing services by alternate methods such as curbside pick up and delivery, except in exceptional circumstances. This includes stores that sell hardware products, vehicle parts and supplies, pet and animal supplies, office supplies and computer products and repairs, and safety supplies.