December 10, 2020, Ontario released updated COVID-19 modelling – the first of the province’s bi-weekly modelling updates to take into account the early effects of lockdown measures in Toronto and Peel. The modelling was presented this afternoon by Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, Dr. Steini Brown.
This afternoon, Premier Doug Ford issued a statement on Ontario’s readiness to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Earlier today, the government extended all orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act until January 20, 2021. This extension will ensure that the government continues to have the necessary tools to protect vulnerable populations and preserve health system capacity, while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government also announced nearly $2.9 million for 32 non-profit Ottawa-area recipients of the first round of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fund. This funding is intended to help non-profit organizations rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, so that they can continue to provide services. Funding may support a broad range of needs, including mental and physical health supports for staff or volunteers, identifying new health and safety processes, purchasing new technology and personal protective equipment (PPE), or capital needs.
This morning, the Ontario and federal governments jointly announced an investment of over $3.5 million to help more than 700 Ontario agri-food businesses establish or expand their online presences. As a result of this initiative, more consumers will be able to access local options when shopping for food online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday evening, Ontario announced that temporary COVID-19 measures allowing for the sale of alcohol with food takeout or delivery orders would be made permanent, in order to support restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments.
COVID-19 Modelling Update
This afternoon, Dr. Williams and Dr. Brown presented the latest COVID-19 modelling for Ontario. Key findings include:
- Cases continue to grow while the percent positivity appears to be flattening. The impact of the pandemic still varies widely across and within public health units.
- Mortality continues to increase and may exceed 25 deaths per day within a month.
- The reproduction number is fluctuating around 1, meaning that for every COVID-19-positive individual, one other person is infected.
- Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy will remain above 200 for the next month and may climb higher if public health interventions are relaxed. As a result, access to non-urgent medical procedures will be impacted, particularly in COVID-19 hotspots.
- Case rates are growing more slowly among Ontarians with access to suitable housing and who have the ability to work from home.
According to Dr. Brown, the latest data, particularly the reproduction number of 1, indicates that Ontario remains at a critical juncture in terms of the province’s ability to flatten the curve of the second wave of COVID-19. He elaborated, explaining that a few significant outbreaks or super spreader events could cause case numbers to take off quickly.
Today’s modelling update was the first of Ontario’s bi-weekly updates to take into account the early effects of lockdowns in Toronto and Peel, which began on November 23rd. The modelling indicated that the current regional lockdowns have not had nearly as much impact on the mobility and contacts of residents as the sweeping lockdown in March. Dr. Williams attributed this to COVID fatigue and complacency toward public health restrictions. He added that he is in conversation with local medical officers of health for Toronto and Peel about additional actions that can be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 in these regions.
Dr. Williams also indicated that he is recommending a number of public health regions move to higher levels of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. The reclassification of these regions will be announced tomorrow.
Premier Ford’s Statement on Preparedness for COVID-19 Vaccines
Earlier this afternoon, Premier Ford issued a statement declaring that “Ontario is ready to receive COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available.”
The statement notes that, following yesterday’s approval by Health Canada, Ontario expects to receive “a very small number of doses” of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days. These doses will be administered at University Health Network and The Ottawa Hospital beginning on Tuesday, December 15th. Initial recipients of the vaccine will include health care workers providing care in long-term care homes and other high risk settings.
Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force met today. Informed by discussions at this meeting, more details regarding the distribution of initial COVID-19 vaccines will be provided tomorrow.