Ontario government is ordering hospitals to prepare quickly for surge in COVID-19 patients as admissions continue to rise to levels not seen since the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in last spring.
In a note to hospitals on Tuesday, Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson said those in the lockdown areas of Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex and the red zones one level lower that include Durham, Halton and Hamilton must set aside 10 to 15%. of their beds “within 48 hours”.
Many hospitals are operating at or above capacity, and non-emergency surgeries and procedures are already being curbed.
Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott made no mention of the memo at their press conference as the province reported a 17% spike in new COVID-19 cases to a record high from 2275 Tuesday.
The Ontario Hospital Association called an emergency board meeting on Wednesday to determine how to deal with the heavy demands the virus is placing on the healthcare system.
Hospitals face “imminent risk of overwhelming conditions,” said association president Dr Anthony Dale.
In the memo first reported by the CBC and obtained by The Star, Anderson wrote “As we all know, we have entered a more critical phase of the pandemic where we are seeing widespread community transmission. Our ability to care for patients (COVID and not COVID) is in question. “
“The steps we take in the days and weeks to come will pave the way for our ability to meet growing and anticipated capacity demands,” he added, encouraging hospitals to “defer in-person care that is not not urgent ”.
Hospitals outside containment and red zones have been told to develop plans “immediately” to release 10 to 15 percent of beds for COVID-19 patients if necessary.
The growing number of new cases on Tuesday and 20 more deaths came a day after Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr David Williams warned the province was on the verge of surpassing the 2,000 new infections mark for the first time, same with Toronto and Peel. lockdown for the past three weeks.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the increase was a ‘wake-up call’ for more action from the Ford government, which has been criticized for not imposing enough public health measures early since the start of the second wave in September.
An infectious disease specialist said the looming Christmas vacation will inevitably see some Ontarians flout public health advice not to socialize with people outside their own homes, fueling transmission of the highly contagious virus.
“It’s going to lead to some very widespread events and I think we’re going to see a peak by mid-January, I think we’re going to see a lot more cases,” said Dr Gerald Evans, president of infectious diseases. at Queen’s University and member of the scientific table advising the government of Premier Doug Ford.
“And the problem is, it’s going to continue to generate this increase in hospitalizations.”
Elliott said the record daily case count at 34 health units across the province was compiled 2.5 hours later than usual, adding more cases – but it was not impossible to tell how badly that was. skewed the total because the case entries in the data collection system are not. time-stamped.
“That explains part of the increase, but these are worrying numbers,” she added, acknowledging the new high.
New public health measures are being discussed “to see what other solutions we might be able to come up with,” Elliott said.
She again urged Ontarians in lockdown areas not to shop in areas where non-essential stores are open.
The number of hospitalizations for the virus jumped significantly on Tuesday, to 921 people from 857 the day before, a figure that includes a few weekend hospitalizations.
Critically ill patients in intensive care rose to 276, near highs set in the first wave of the pandemic in April. There were 170 ventilators, up from 75 four weeks ago, showing how the increase in the number of cases has led to a higher demand for intensive care beds. Elective surgeries have been curbed in at least a dozen hospitals.
Horwath said Ford couldn’t let the vaccinations, which started on Monday, be “an excuse to stop taking urgent and necessary action.”
“The explosive number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario today is the biggest wake-up call to date that just waiting for a vaccine is a dangerous plan,” she added.
Horwath called for widespread testing at school, additional staff for nursing homes to care for residents and manage infection control duties, and paid sick days so workers can allow themselves to stay home when sick.
There have been 319 additional cases of students and staff in schools across the province since Friday afternoon, with the percentage of schools with cases rising to 18.9% and 20 schools temporarily closed due to outbreaks, an increase of two, in addition to the fact that all schools were closed. for classroom learning in Windsor-Essex this week after an increase in infections there.
The Windsor-Essex and York region was locked out on Monday.
“There are 711 new cases in Toronto, 586 in Peel, 185 in Windsor-Essex County and 154 in York Region,” Elliott said on Twitter.
It should be noted that the cases were considerably higher on much lower tests of about 39,600 tests processed on Monday, compared to more than 57,000 the day before. This has driven up the rate of Ontarians who have tested positive for the virus.
On Monday, Williams said higher test positivity rates over the weekend were a bad sign as the Christmas holidays approach.
Officials who are computer modeling the trajectory of the pandemic warned last week that it wouldn’t take much of an increase in transmission to send Ontario back to an exponential growth in infections that could lead to several thousand new cases per day .