Premier to release 'really stark' projections Friday as Ontario confirms 401 new COVID-19 cases

Premier to release 'really stark' projections Friday as Ontario confirms 401 new COVID-19 cases

Recent developments:

  • Ontario confirmed 401 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
  • Total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the province now at 2,793.
  • Ontario's official death toll from COVID-19 now at 53.
  • 831 cases are considered resolved.
  • Premier promised a full briefing from province's health experts on Friday.
  • Three COVID-19 related deaths reported at Toronto long-term care home.
  • Ontario Hospital Association sounds alarm about dwindling supplies.
  • Royal Canadian Legion adapting services to support veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • COVID-19 crisis results in power grid concerns.
  • Outbreak of COVID-19 at Lakeridge Health Oshawa.
  • Torontonians will now risk $5,000 fine if they stand less than two metres apart.

Ontario confirmed 401 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 2,793.

The tally includes 16 new deaths, putting Ontario's official death toll at 53, as well as 831 cases considered resolved.

Another 2,052 people are awaiting test results, 1,083 fewer than the previous 24 hours. A total of 62,733 tests have been administered.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford promised to release data Friday showing how many Ontarians could die from COVID-19 in various scenarios, warning that the projections will be hard to hear.

Ford had resisted calls to release that modelling as recently as Wednesday, saying there were many different scenarios, but said medical experts will now provide a public briefing.

"Over the next little while, we will all have to make some very, very difficult decisions and you deserve the same information I have," Ford said.

"You deserve to see the same data that I see when I'm making decisions. You deserve to know what I know when you're making decisions for yourself, your family and your community."

Numbers may be 'a real wake-up call,' Ford says

Ford said the numbers may be "a real wake-up call" to people who may be tempted to pack the beaches and the parks as the weather gets nicer.

"The truth is, the situation is extremely, extremely serious," Ford said. "Right now, our best defence is to stay home, self isolate and don't go out. It is a matter of life and death."

"People are going to see some really stark figures tomorrow," Ford said.

The premier said the situation is "extremely serious," and again implored people to stay home.

Evan Mitsui/CBC

The updated figures from the province are a snapshot of the COVID-19 situation as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, meaning the current death toll is higher.

A Bobcaygeon nursing home, for instance, reported two more deaths of residents in a COVID-19 outbreak there early this morning, bringing the total to 16 in that facility. The local health unit believes the outbreak at Pinecrest Nursing Home is the largest in the province, with at least 24 staff members also infected.

For the first time, Ontario is also reporting data on hospitalizations, how many COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units, and how many cases have required a ventilator:

  • 405 infected people have been hospitalized.
  • 167 of those are in ICUs.
  • 112 patients are on ventilators.

Numbers will be 'challenging'

Meanwhile, without going into specifics, Dr. David Williams, the chief medical health officer, said some people might find the numbers challenging.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, Williams said his office has had scientists working hard at the modelling to get the information to provincial authorities.

"The more data we can give them, the more able they are to make some better projections and forecast in that sense. My point always with those things [is that] they give us an idea of what we should prepare for," Williams said.

"I really feel that by what we're doing we can still bend the curve. I think the numbers as always will be challenging as people see what might progress."

COVID-19 outbreak at Lakeridge Health Oshawa

Late Thursday night, Lakeridge Health and Durham Region Health Department confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at an inpatient unit.at Lakeridge Health Oshawa.

The individuals who have tested positive have been appropriately isolated, are receiving care and being monitored, they said in a joint statement.

The unit is temporarily closed to admissions, the statement continued.

3 deaths at long-term care home in Toronto

Meanwhile, CBC News has learned of three deaths at a long-term care home in Toronto.

Mary Hoare, CEO of St. Clair O'Connor Community Nursing Home, told CBC News the three deaths — all related to COVID-19 — happened Thursday morning.

These are the first COVID-19-related deaths at the home since the outbreak of the deadly respiratory illness. 

On Thursday, City of Toronto officials announced a new bylaw that prohibits people from standing within two metres of each other in city parks and public squares — and failing to comply could mean a fine of up to $5,000. 

Watch The National's report on how COVID-19 is already putting stress on ICUs in Ontario:

Health officials also offered the following breakdown of cases since Jan. 15, 2020:

  • 48.5 per cent are male, while 50.9 per cent are female.
  • 32.3 per cent are 60 years of age and older.
  • Greater Toronto Area public health units account for more than 53 per cent of cases.

The newly confirmed cases in Ontario push the Canada-wide total to 10,132.

Ford also announced Thursday that the province is pledging $12 million to online mental health supports for those who are struggling as isolation measures continue. 

"You are not alone. We're listening. We care," Ford said.

How have you been affected by the coronavirus? Let us know by emailing covid@cbc.ca, and include the words "personal story" in your subject line.

The association that represents Ontario's hospitals is sounding the alarm about dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment.

The Ontario Hospital Association says it is "extremely concerned" that many of the facilities are running low.

It says that as the number of COVID-19 cases in acute care units rise, many hospitals are experiencing a shortage, especially of masks.

The association is calling on the federal and provincial governments to clearly communicate when new supplies will be provided to specific hospitals.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey today announced $2.7 million for community agencies to support victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province is also investing $1.3 million in technology to help courts and tribunals operate remotely.

Support for veterans

Meanwhile, Royal Canadian Legion branches are adapting their services to support veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it's also warning that financial pressures could result in the closure of some branches.

The head of the national veterans and community service group says that despite the shut down of most branches, volunteers continue preparing hot meals, delivering groceries and providing online social links to struggling veterans.

Dominion President Thomas Irvine says the efforts come at a time when legion branches themselves are under considerable financial strain because of the pandemic.

He says their main sources of income — in-house restaurants and bars, as well as hosted events — have been cut off.

Power grid concerns

A group of personnel key to keeping Ontario's electricity system functioning may end up locked down in their control centres due to the COVID-19 crisis.

This according to the head of the province's power operator.

Independent Electricity System Operator CEO Peter Gregg says the measure has so far proven unnecessary.

He says that while about 90 per cent of staff were sent to work from home on March 13th, another 48 control-room operators deemed essential are still going into work.

He says it could come to a point where they can't leave the workplace because without them, the power grid would fail.