The “steady” growth in COVID-19 infections province-wide has an expert monitoring the trends closely.
While there were no dramatic spikes in the number of daily cases, the increases have been constant “for an extended period,” said Ryan Imgrund, biostatistician at Southlake Regional Health Center in Newmarket.
“This is where I worry.”
Imgrund has been tracking the actual reproduction count – known as Rt, or how many other people with COVID will typically infect – for Ontario throughout the pandemic.
This number fluctuates over time, depending on behaviors such as social distancing and mask use. Without all of these, COVID-19’s reproduction rate is between two and four.
It should be less than one to keep infections low.
Since July 29, the Rt in the province has fallen from 0.8 to 1.35, said Imgrund, who calculates it based on daily counts of cases and the dates they are passed from person to person. .
“It has increased almost every day. There was a little hollow between August 8 and August 10, but it has been more than one since August 5, ”he said.
“It concerns me.”
Ontario reported 108 new cases on Saturday, an increase of 0.3%, with one new death and nearly 29,000 tests processed. Twenty-seven of the province’s health units have reported five or fewer cases, and 16 have not, tweeted Health Minister Christine Elliott. That is a drop from the 131 cases reported on Friday, a peak the province blamed on a lack of data at some health units.
But when the Rt is above one for more than a week or so, it indicates “more of a real trend” rather than a “fluke,” Imgrund said. It’s unclear where this came from, but it could be linked to new infections around Phase 3 re-openings of places such as bars and gyms.
“If we continue to see it picking up speed, we have to start making other choices at that point, which may include shutting down some of the riskier things that we have allowed to open,” he said. -he declares. like bars and maybe gyms too, which don’t take the necessary precautions to hide during intense cardio.
The new cases in the province now appear to be clustered in a few urban centers, including Ottawa and Waterloo, instead of more rural pockets they were in a few weeks ago, Imgrund said.
Toronto’s Rt is at 1.08 and has been above one since Tuesday, he said. There were 41 new cases reported by Toronto Public Health in the city on Friday and 19 on Saturday.
“Toronto seems to be tracking what’s happening at the provincial level, as the hardest hit region in the GTA appears to be Peel,” Imgrund added.
Peel has an Rt of 0.97, “but a lot of the cases have been much more recent in terms of the onset of symptoms,” he said. In the past 24 hours, there have been 30 new cases, according to the local public health unit.
“It is certainly the most disturbing area I have seen in the Greater Toronto Area.”
Peel public health staff said in an email they “have seen the number of cases increase slightly recently, and any increase is concerning.” However, they continue to track various indicators in a weekly report and “it is positive that we have not seen a parallel increase in severe cases”.
They attribute the rise to social gatherings such as barbecues and backyard parties. They also saw an increase in the number of new travel-related cases, “It is worth reminding those who leave their region and leave Ontario to be extremely vigilant.
Asked about the increase in the daily number of cases on Friday, Dr. Christine Navarro, Toronto’s deputy medical officer of health, said in an email that “some daily variability in reported cases is expected and may reflect patterns of laboratory tests ( both people choose to get tested and how and when labs collect and run their tests) and likely represent infections acquired over several days. “
The agency is monitoring trends closely, but “considers a seven-day moving average to be a better reflection of any worrying trend.” We encourage the public to follow the additional indicators that we are monitoring on our COVID-19 monitoring dashboard, ”she added.
According to this dashboard, the seven-day moving average of new cases is a positive “green” at 23, as is the current general state of the city, which includes other metrics including hospitalizations and institutional outbreaks. .
The seven-day average was up provincially on Friday to 102 cases and 0.9 deaths per day according to Star’s tally.
Most of the province’s new cases on Saturday (44) were in younger people (20 to 29 years old). Earlier this week, Mayor John Tory told reporters the average age of those infected had risen to 39 over the past two weeks, up from 52 for the duration of the pandemic so far.
“The proportion of cases among those under the age of 19 and those aged 20 to 29 has increased dramatically in recent weeks,” he said, urging the younger ones to take the threat seriously and to move away. remember that they are not. immortal ”or“ invincible ”.
On Friday, Tory joined the mayors of the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton in warning Gen Z and Millennials to continue to follow advice on public health, social distancing and wearing masks.
It is very rare for a young person to die or suffer from serious complications from the virus, but it can happen.
In Montreal, a 19-year-old who was identified in several media reports on Saturday as Don Béni Kabangu Nsapu, a healthy high school athlete, became the first victim of the province’s under-20s.
With files from David Rider and Ed Tubb