Health officials remain confident the first wave of COVID-19 has peaked in Ontario but say persistent numbers of new cases make it impossible to predict when the economy could reopen.
“We are likely at a plateau,” associate medical officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Friday as a Star compilation of data from regional health units showed another 489 confirmed and probable cases and 53 more deaths.
“It could actually be weeks. We don’t know,” she added when asked how long the trend could continue before new cases fall to below 200 daily, the benchmark for easing restrictions.
Premier Doug Ford has promised a “framework” for a gradual relaxation of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 will be revealed next week, and has warned that people will “still be dying” from the illness.
The number of new cases daily has not been in the 100 to 200 range since late March. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the Star’s survey of public health units showed a total of 14,793 cases since the outbreak began in January, with 852 deaths.
In a sign that the new coronavirus retains a firm grip, patients seriously ill and requiring hospitalization for COVID-19 jumped by 13 per cent this week in Ontario.
Yaffe said she has asked for specific data to explain the rise in hospital cases to 910 as reported by the Ministry of Health on Friday, an increase from 802 on Monday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said a resumption of orthopedic, cancer and elective surgeries must also wait until the number of new cases drops sufficiently.
“We need to make sure that we are past the peak so that we know we will have the hospital capacity that we need,” she told reporters, acknowledging many patients are waiting anxiously for surgeries.
“But we are planning for them already.”
Having the number of new cases daily below 200 gives local public health units a better chance of tracking individual cases and tracing their contacts to direct anyone with a long enough exposure to self-isolate and stop the chain of transmission.
The Ministry of Health said 7,087 people have now recovered from COVID-19.
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