A major provincial association is calling for the return of Stage Two pandemic restrictions, as Peel Region and surrounding areas continue to grapple with rising COVID-19 cases.
‘We know that we are in the second wave, and we know it will be worse than the first wave,” Premier Doug Ford said Monday, as the province reported 700 new cases – the highest confirmed case count since earlier this spring.
This significant increase has prompted the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) to call for the return of Stage 2 restrictions. Stage 2 restrictions mean schools, and many businesses and services, will be locked down again.
“Ontario hospitals are facing a direct threat to their ability to continue to delivering the highest quality of care to Ontarians,” said OHA president Anthony Dale in a statement Monday, indicating that if action isn’t taken, hospitals could be hit with a surge in cases they aren’t prepared for.
The province’s average hospital occupancy levels are also rising, said Dale, with several acute care wards currently dealing with near 100 per cent occupancy levels. The province said Monday that it would spend $741 million to clear surgery backlogs that had developed at hospitals during the pandemic.
“We can no longer retain a false sense of security and belief that this will not happen to us.”
Dale’s statement was bolstered by an updated provincial model released Wednesday, which projects that cases are doubling every 10-12 days, and that the province could see 1,000 confirmed cases per day by mid-October under the current restrictions.
“COVID-19 continues to be a serious threat in our communities, and today’s modelling shows the importance of adhering to public health measures,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott during a press conference on Wednesday. “We must not let our guard down now as we head into the cold and flu season. We all need to do our part and continue to follow all public health measures in place to contain and stop the spread of the virus.”
Dale also commented that if the province returns to Stage 2, it will come at a “serious cost” to thousands of businesses and employees.
“Employers will require additional help from various levels of government,” said Dale, who also indicated that emerging evidence suggests that bars and restaurants have become “significant drivers” of rising cases.
“Keeping these settings open while restricting private gatherings sends a confusing message to the public… we in order to keep schools open, protect our province’s most vulnerable and conserve our health system’s limited resources, stronger restrictions are needed now.”
Local hospitals in Peel have also been gearing up for an influx of cases over the winter. Trillium Health Partners, which manages three hospitals in Mississauga and Etobicoke, outlined their plans late last week to handle a second-wave scenario.
“We have been working everyday fighting COVID-19 on the front lines to ensure that patients and staff are safe at THP and that those who require our services are able to receive the high quality care they need,” said Michelle DiEmanuele, Trillium’s president and CEO. The hospital has tripled its average daily test count at its assessment centres, from 450 per day in May to 1,200 per day last month.
“We have also been getting ready for this fall by building on the strong foundation of actions taken during wave one.”
The health system said it is taking a number of steps to combat rising cases, including the establishment of a pandemic response unit, additional beds and boosted contact tracing and screening through the launch of new IT applications.
“We will also continue to work closely with long-term care, public health and our schools to ensure that we have a coordinated response,” said DiEmanuele. “We are all in this together.”