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People wait in line at the Women's College COVID-19 testing facility in Toronto, Sept. 18, 2020.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Ontario’s second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is on track to infect far more people than the first and potentially overload the health care system, according to new data released by the province.

Figures show that new cases of the coronavirus are doubling roughly every 10 to 12 days. On Monday, the daily count hit 700, for the first time overtaking the highest numbers reached during the initial wave of the pandemic, which peaked in Ontario in late April. At that rate, the province could surpass 1,000 new cases a day before mid-October.

So far, the rising tide has not overwhelmed hospitals, in part because infections have grown most rapidly among 20- to 39-year-olds. Members of that age group are less likely to experience a severe case of COVID-19 than those who are older. However, the trend is being mirrored to varying degrees across the entire population, including those who are over 60 and considered most vulnerable to the disease.

Story continues below advertisement

Weekly new cases of Covid-19

in Ontario, by age group

Initially, Ontario’s second wave of COVID-19 was

primarily impacting the 20-39 age group, but case

growth is now occurring in all other age groups

1,800

1,600

20 to 39

1,400

1,200

1,000

800

40 to 59

600

Under 20

400

60 to 74

200

Over 74

0

March 7

May 2

June 6

Aug. 1

Sept. 5

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: government of ontario

Weekly new cases of Covid-19 in Ontario,

by age group

Initially, Ontario’s second wave of COVID-19 was primarily

impacting the 20-39 age group, but case growth is now

occurring in all other age groups

1,800

1,600

20 to 39

1,400

1,200

1,000

800

40 to 59

600

Under 20

400

60 to 74

200

Over 74

0

March 7

May 2

June 6

Aug. 1

Sept. 5

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: government of ontario

Weekly new cases of Covid-19 in Ontario, by age group

Initially, Ontario’s second wave of COVID-19 was primarily impacting the

20-39 age group, but case growth is now occurring in all other age groups

1,800

1,600

20 to 39

1,400

1,200

1,000

800

40 to 59

600

Under 20

400

60 to 74

200

Over 74

0

March 7

April 4

May 2

June 6

July 4

Aug. 1

Sept. 5

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: government of ontario

“It is clear that there is a spillover starting to happen,” said Steini Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “We’re seeing growth across all age groups.”

Dr. Brown presented the data at a news briefing on Wednesday, together with David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Matt Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Ontario Health.

At a separate news conference, Premier Doug Ford called the latest trends “deeply concerning," though he did not commit to any new restrictions.

“We have the best plan in the country, and we are ready to respond as the situation on the ground changes,” Mr. Ford said.

On Sept. 19, the province reduced the number of people allowed in private indoor and outdoor gatherings, and last week, Ontario limited alcohol sales and mandated earlier closing of bars and restaurants, as well as closing strip clubs. Dr. Williams said the recent measures need to take effect before any further action is taken.

“We’re cognizant of closing down too many businesses without data to support that, as a draconian measure,” he said.

The data show that Ontario is now seeing more new cases than it had during the first wave of the pandemic in a side-by-side comparison starting at the point when case numbers hit 300 a day. More worrying, a projection based on provincial data more closely resembles what occurred in the state of Victoria in Australia, including the city of Melbourne, which emerged this week from a gruelling two-month lockdown after a protracted battle with the virus.

Story continues below advertisement

Second Wave Looming

In a side by side comparison, Ontario's second wave

is projected to exceed the first wave and may resem-

ble numbers seen earlier this year in

Victoria, Australia.

Ontario

projection

Ontario

2nd wave

Ontario

1st wave

Victoria,

Australia

Michigan

1,200

1,000

800

DAILY CASES

600

400

200

0

1

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

NUMBER OF DAYS

Notes: Ontario’s projection is based on current doubling time of

12 days (Sept 28). Jurisdictions are aligned at their first day that

cases reached 300 per day Seven day averages were used for

the figure.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIl

SOURCE: gov’t of ontario

Second Wave Looming

In a side by side comparison, Ontario's second wave is project-

ed to exceed the first wave and may resemble numbers seen

earlier this year in Victoria, Australia.

Ontario

2nd wave

Ontario

projection

Ontario

1st wave

Victoria,

Australia

Michigan

1,200

1,000

800

DAILY CASES

600

400

200

0

1

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

NUMBER OF DAYS

Notes: Ontario’s projection is based on current doubling time of 12 days

(Sept 28). Jurisdictions are aligned at their first day that cases reached 300

per day Seven day averages were used for the figure.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIl

SOURCE: gov’t of ontario

Second Wave Looming

In a side by side comparison, Ontario's second wave is projected to exceed the first wave

and may resemble numbers seen earlier this year in Victoria, Australia.

Ontario

projection

Ontario

1st wave

Ontario

2nd wave

Victoria,

Australia

Michigan

1,200

1,000

800

DAILY CASES

600

400

200

0

1

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

NUMBER OF DAYS

Notes: Ontario’s projection is based on current doubling time of 12 days (Sept 28). Jurisdictions are aligned

at their first day that cases reached 300 per day. Seven day averages were used for the figure.

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: governmentt of ontario

“No one likes to be labelled an alarmist but I do think now is the time for us to be alarmed,” said Kali Barrett, a critical-care physician at Toronto’s University Health Network and a member of the COVID-19 modelling collaboration that created the projection.

Dr. Barrett added that controlling the virus requires continued adherence to the public-health measures “that we know work,” including masking, handwashing, physical distancing and avoiding situations that place people in contact with others beyond their immediate family or social bubble.

Jane Heffernan, an infectious-disease modeller at York University, said that the Ontario numbers show that willingness to follow such measures, particularly physical distancing, is waning among the young.

“Now the cost of not socializing is competing with the fear of getting the virus,” she said.

For the province’s hospitals, the challenge is to avoid what happened during the initial wave of the pandemic, when many non-COVID-19 treatments and procedures were postponed to keep beds open. This time, Mr. Anderson said, “We are trying to maintain our health care system and in fact bring up our volume on procedures.”

Mr. Anderson said that if the number of patients admitted to intensive care in Ontario remains under 150 a day, hospitals can continue to maintain normal capacity and scheduled operations. If that number rises to between 150 and 350, “things become very strained." Beyond 350, normal service would have to change to accommodate the increased demand.

Story continues below advertisement

The province is facing increasing pressure from health care groups, such as the Ontario Hospital Association, to return certain COVID-19 hot spots – including the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa – to Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan, which would close down indoor dining and fitness facilities.

In Quebec, which is seeing a similar rise in cases, areas of high infection will face strict limits on personal behaviour starting just after midnight on Thursday morning. Affected areas include Montreal and its surrounding suburbs, Quebec City, and the largely rural Chaudière-Appalaches region.

Premier François Legault also announced on Wednesday that recently imposed measures, including banning most guests in private homes and requiring protesters to wear masks across large swaths of the province, will be enforced with on-the-spot $1,000 fines. Police will be authorized to seek digital warrants to gain access to unco-operative homes, he said.

With a report from Eric Andrew-Gee


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