Ontario can expect 1,600 COVID-19 deaths by the end of April if tougher measures are not taken, according to computer models projecting traces of the virus that has already killed 98 people.
The number could be as low as 200 if the province moves to “full future intervention” and more people stay at home, health officials said at a briefing on Friday.
“We think it’s important to be transparent with the public about the magnitude of the challenges,” said Peter Donnelly, President of Public Health Ontario.
Premier Doug Ford begged Ontarians to stay home as long as he announced that more businesses were to close by midnight Saturday, with the exception of building hospitals and public transportation. possible to stop the spread.
He noted that 1,600 potential deaths were 50 per day, or about two per hour.
“Everyone could be your brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent or a friend. This virus could affect anyone, “he said at a press conference.
“We all have to wonder what the cost of a life is. Is a life worth a picnic in a park? Is a life worth going to the beach? Is a life worth having a few with your buddies in the basement? The answer is no, ”added Ford.
“We have to listen to what the data tells us … we have to take these warnings seriously.”
Without measures that have already taken place, such as closing schools and banning more than five people, the death toll would have risen to 6,000, said Donnelly.
About 4,400 deaths have been averted because “much has already been done in this province,” he said.
“Reinforced measures” would eliminate the death toll “to the extent possible,” said Steini Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
Ontario would face 100,000 cases by the end of April “if we hadn’t done anything,” said Brown. This can be limited to 12,500 cases by the end of the month with more measures.
But unless something else is done, hospitals could be overwhelmed by the end of the month, said Matthew Anderson, president of Ontario Health, a new agency overseeing the provincial health care system.
“We are trying everything we can to increase the capacity.”
The modeling report recommended reducing the number and types of essential workplaces allowed to operate, strengthening the enforcement of closures and social distancing, “entry restrictions” for certain communities, including First Nations vulnerable, and to set up more shelters with “limited exceptions”.
There should also be more COVID-19 contact tracing and more testing.
Additional efforts are needed to protect the elderly and provide adequate housing for the homeless, said Donnelly.
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“Getting tough” on the virus at this point will both help shut it down and allow the economy to recover sooner while saving lives and allowing the healthcare system to cope, he said. he adds.
“There is no dilemma between saving lives and saving the economy.”
Approximately 3,500 Ontarians have been infected with COVID-19 through confirmed laboratory tests and, in suspected cases, pending test results to date, and hundreds or thousands of others are believed to have the virus that does not exist. have not been tested because their symptoms are mild.
According to figures from the Ministry of Health released Friday morning, there were 462 Ontarians hospitalized with COVID-19, including 194 in intensive care, including 140 seriously ill on ventilation to help them breathe.
Government hastened to buy more ventilators as hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health workers repeatedly call for masks, face shields, gloves, gowns and other personal protective equipment which is rare.
Doctors and nurses on the front line in some hospitals are being rationed twice a day, and fear it will increase their risk of infection. More than 230 health workers have already taken COVID-19.
There have been outbreaks in 26 nursing homes, including 20 residents and one deceased volunteer at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, where at least two dozen workers tested positive for the virus.
Eight other retirement homes are also experiencing epidemics.
The projections were released as public health and political officials increasingly warn of the need to take action to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which first arrived from China in late January.
“The situation is extremely, extremely serious,” Prime Minister Doug Ford warned Thursday, preparing residents for figures that would be “hard to hear.”
“I don’t think I’m going to hold the numbers in this crisis,” added Ford after changing his mind on the release of figures he initially feared would “create panic.”
But he decided that Ontarians should hear the details because they were asked to take extraordinary action, with many businesses closed and thousands struggling with little or no income and bills to pay in a state of emergency that shut down parts of the economy.
“You deserve the same information as I do,” said Ford.