COVID-19 Update for January 12 – 2:40PM
Grim Forecast Given by Health Officials
By the end of February, the daily number of Ontarians dying from COVID-19 Ontario could double from 50 to 100, according to new modelling figures presented by provincial health officials today.
The Science Advisory and Modelling Consensus Table presented updated projections, warning that without significant changes in behaviour, the health system will be overwhelmed, and we will see deaths exceed the first wave totals. Dr. Adlalsteinn (Steini) Brown said the numbers no are no longer precarious – they are now very dangerous.
With an increase in new cases over seven per cent on the worst days, and a pre-holiday spike in cases, hospitals have seen a 72 per cent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a 61 per cent increase in ICU patients. COVID-19 ICU occupancy now exceeds 400 beds in Ontario. Matt Anderson, CEO of Ontario Health, joined Dr. Brown to emphasize that with 50 per cent of hospitals either at or just below ICU capacity, hospitals across the province cannot respond appropriately to other health emergencies such as heart attacks or accidents.
The Science Table also addressed the new variant, SARS-CoV-2 (B117), which is confirmed to be more transmissible and could increase the number of infections if it becomes present in the community.
The data released today also showed that the lockdown imposed over the Christmas and New Year holiday did not decrease individuals’ movement and contacts between people.
The impact of COVID-19 on long-term care continues to be devastating. Almost 40 per cent of long-term care homes have active COVID-19 outbreaks, and since January 1, 198 residents and two staff of long-term care homes have died of COVID-19. In the worst scenario, projections show the cumulative number of LTC resident deaths could be more than 2,600 by February 14 – much higher than the deaths in the first wave.
Ontario Declares Second State of Emergency
Effective immediately, Ontario is declaring a second provincial emergency in response to COVID-19 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. These emergency orders will last for 28 days unless actively extended. The restrictions include:
- Stay at home order effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m. where everyone must stay home and only go out for essential trips.
- Schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York and Hamilton will be closed until at least February 10 for in person learning.
- Five-person outdoor gathering limit, reduced from 10.
- All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
- Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
- Construction projects associated with health care and long-term care remain essential, as do projects related to transit, municipal infrastructure, energy and mining.
Enforcement and inspections will increase. Bylaw officers will have power to disperse people and give tickets to “bad actors,” and that inspections of big box stores will increase. Ford said he will come down on big box stores that violate the restrictions “like an 800-pound gorilla.”
Ontario is exploring all options available to put in place a temporary moratorium on residential evictions and will have more to say in the coming days.
Prime Minister Shuffles Cabinet
This morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a surprise Cabinet shuffle and held Canada’s first ever virtual swearing-in ceremony.
This comes as a result of Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains’ decision not to run in the upcoming election and to take a step back from cabinet to spend more time with his family.
- Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is the new Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
- Minister Marc Garneau has moved from Transport to Global Affairs,
- MP Omar Alghabra has been promoted to Cabinet as Minister of Transport.
- Jim Carr has also returned to Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio, with a focus on Prairie representation.
Alghabra leaves his role as Parliamentary Secretary (PS) to the Prime Minister (Public Service Renewal) and to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to take on this new role. Over the last six years, Alghabra has held many roles within the Trudeau government and has built a strong relationship with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
This move comes as speculation of a spring election continue to grow.
Federal Vaccine Update
The Prime Minister also announced that the federal government has procured an additional 20 million Pfizer doses, to be delivered in April or May. This brings the total procured doses up to 80 million between Pfizer and Moderna. This keeps Canada on track to vaccinate every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated by the end of September.
A new vaccine distribution tracker is available online where Canadians can follow the government’s progress on distribution across Canada.
Trudeau announced that the border measures with the US have been extended by another 30 days, until February 21, 2021.