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Ford speaks as health officials project up to 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases within weeks

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is providing an update on COVID-19 at his daily briefing beginning at 1 p.m.

CBC News is carrying the news conference live above.

Health authorities say that new daily cases of COVID-19 in Ontario could top 1,000 in the first half of October, as the province confirmed another 625 infections of the novel coronavirus. 

The stark new forecasting comes in updated modelling released Wednesday by the provincial government.

On hand to deliver the data were Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, as well as Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health.  

The number of new cases reported daily are doubling every 10 to 12 days, Brown said, meaning the province could see a “remarkably high surge” in coming weeks.

The growth in infections was initially limited primarily to the 20-39 age group, he said, but now cases are climbing in every age group. 

“Although we see a large amount of infections among younger people right now, this is likely starting to spill over into older age groups, which is where we see the most tragic and most challenging consequences for health and for the health-care system,” said Brown. 

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases, a measure that smooths peaks and valleys in data, has been steadily rising since reaching its low in the first two weeks of August. 

Brown also noted a troubling upward trend in the per cent positivity rate of COVID-19 tests, which is now approaching three per cent in places like Toronto, Peel and Ottawa. The provincewide average is currently about 1.75 per cent. 

Williams said the modelling doesn’t take into account new rules introduced by the government in recent days, such as closing strip clubs and limiting hours of operation for bars and restaurants. Health officials will wait to see if the measures help to curb the growth in new cases before possibly implementing any further restrictions, he said.

Williams added that residents must again strictly follow public health rules.

“We need to pull up our socks,” he said. “We can impact the curve.”

WATCH | Not all COVID-19 measures need to be provincewide, says Ontario chief medical officer of health:

Fighting a rise in Ontario COVID-19 cases requires concentrated measures, says Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, who appealed for people to take a ‘what else can we do?’ attitude. 3:24

The modelling also warns about the risks of increasing occupancy in hospital intensive care units, which Anderson said is just one measure of the virus’ impact on the health-care system.

The province is trying to avoid ordering a total stop to most surgeries as was done earlier in the pandemic, creating a significant backlog. But normal hospital operations cannot be maintained if more than 350 patients are in ICUs across the province, the projections state.

As of Wednesday, 35 people were being treated for COVID-19 in ICUs in different parts of Ontario.

“Really what we’re trying to reflect … is that this disease can have a profound impact on other aspects of our life, and of our society,” Anderson said. “What we want to do is protect those procedures.”

Provincial health officials, including Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that the number of cases of COVID-19 are increasing in every age group. (Pierre-Olivier Bernatchez/CBC)

Meanwhile, Ontario’s Ministry of Health reported 625 additional cases of COVID-19 today. 

Consistent with recent weeks, the majority of new cases reported today were concentrated in four public health units:

  • Toronto: 288
  • Peel Region: 97
  • Ottawa: 64
  • York Region: 41

Health Minister Christine Elliott said about 62 per cent of new cases are people under 40 years old.

Ontario has now seen a total of 51,710 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, about 84.9 per cent are considered resolved. Another 457 were marked resolved in today’s report.

There are currently some 4,955 confirmed, active infections provincewide, the most since April 29. 

The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 now sits at 150, nearly double what it was just one week ago. The rise in hospitalizations began about two weeks after new daily cases started accelerating.

The province’s network of labs processed 35,753 test samples for the novel coronavirus Tuesday, while the backlog of tests waiting to be completed has grown to 67,126.

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