The growth of COVID-19 in Ontario appears to be slowing, said public health officials Thursday as they outlined a very cautiously optimistic outlook for the province.
Ontario is moving away from the grim predictions presented at the beginning of October.
“Most indicators are showing a slowing growth in COVID-19 cases,” said Steini Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, at a press conference on Thursday.
“The trajectory appears to be moving away from the worst case, but cases are continuing to climb. It’s not that we have crested and are now coming back down the other side the epidemic curve, we are just getting a slower period of growth within that curve.”
Brown said Ontario can expect a “sort of steady state level” of daily cases from around 800 to 1,200 for awhile.
The province reported on Thursday 934 new cases of COVID-19.
(Outbreaks are only one measure of the prevalence of COVID-19, since in many cases public health officials have not been able to locate the source of infection.)
Ottawa restaurant owner John Borsten said he is frustrated by the restrictions, saying they are unfair and counterproductive. There is no evidence that restaurants are fuelling the spread of COVID-19, he said.
If people can’t go to restaurants, where there are safety protocols in place, they will end up socializing less safely in homes, he said.
Borsten owns five restaurants, including three Zak’s Diner locations. There are 200 staff, and only one has tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
The lockdown is devastating for businesses, he said.
“I’ve had to hire and lay off my staff now how many times?”
At his daily press conference, Premier Doug Ford said he isn’t making any promises about easing restrictions in Stage 2 regions.
However, he expressed his support for a more “surgical approach” to restrictions.
For example, in the Peel region, Ford said, there have been “a few bumps in the road” with Mississauga and Brampton, and Caledon is complaining that they’re being punished because the numbers are escalating in other areas.
By the numbers
As of Oct. 29, 2 p.m.
6,830 Total confirmed cases
5,839 Cases resolved
670 Active cases
4 New deaths
321 Total deaths
40 In hospital
5 In ICU
934 Number of new cases
10: New deaths
3,118 Total deaths
322 In hospital
77 In ICU
52: On ventilators
However, the numbers could rise quickly if there are superspreader events, warned Brown.
There is considerable variation across the province in key indicators of how the disease is spreading, the data showed.
For instance, in the seven regions with the highest number of cases by population, the rates range from 83.1 per 100,000 population in Peel and 47.4 in Ottawa to 30.7 in Halton. In contrast, the number of cases per 100,000 population in other areas of the province is 12.8.
The growth in hospitalizations for the disease and admittance to ICU units has also slowed, according to the data presented.
However, Brown warned there are also worrying signs that the disease is percolating into the older population.
The average age of people testing positive is increasing, and is now 40.
There has been a sharp increase in deaths of people living in long-term care homes.
Between Aug. 15 and Oct. 8, there were 25 deaths in long-term care homes. That number has now climbed to 85, said Brown.
Brown said there are indications that the Stage 2 pandemic restrictions imposed in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York have had an impact. The restrictions include a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars and the closure of gyms and cinemas.
There has been a substantial drop in the number of reported outbreaks in the Stage 2 regions, said Brown.
The data also compared the location of outbreaks in various cities. In Ottawa, for instance, 2 per cent of outbreaks were in restaurants, bars and clubs, compared to 14 per cent of outbreaks in Toronto that were in restaurants, bars and clubs.