Health officials in Ontario are starting to have conversations on topics like how fast a cancerous tumor grows if the patient is unable to get timely surgery as a result of COVID overcrowding in ICU Units. This was one of a number of grim scenarios presented Tuesday by Dr. Steini Brown, head of the COVID 19 Science Advisory Table and Dr. Barbara Yaffe of Public Health Ontario.
The key focus of the discussion was not only on the sheer number of new cases that Ontario can expect if tougher control measures are not implemented, but the effect it will have on people needed non-COVID treatment. Dr Brown demonstrated that growth in cases has accelerated and is over 7% on the worst days. If that level of positivity were to continue unchecked, we could see 40,000 daily counts by Mid February, 20,000 at 5 percent positivity and 10,000 at 3 percent.
Almost 40% of long-term care homes have active COVID-19 outbreaks. Since January 1st 198 LTC residents and 2 LTC staff have died of COVID-19. Forecasts now suggest there will be more deaths in wave 2 in long-term care than in wave 1.
ICU occupancy related to COVID is now over 400 beds. Surgeries are being cancelled and the access to care deficit will continue to increase with real consequences for health. The presentation indicated that one quarter of Ontario Hospitals now have no ICU beds free. That category included Hamilton General Hospital reporting no free beds as of last Friday. Juravinski hospital was showing only two free ICU beds as of the same date. Only St. Joseph’s Charlton Campus was showing three or more ICU beds available. In Halton, Oakville Trafalgar was listed as having no ICU beds. Joseph Brant in Burlington was listed at having three or more intensive care beds available.
Essentially the report said that the lockdown measures that were imposed in December have not been successful because roughly one-third of Ontarians have not complied with the restrictions. Mobility, and contacts between people have not decreased with the current restrictions, Dr Brown told reporters case numbers will not decline until more of the population follows their example.
Now there is a new variant of the virus called SARS-CoV-2 (B117) which could drive much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality if community transmission occurs. The doubling time for cases could drop by more than two-thirds. This new variant is now in Ontario.
Dr Brown concluded by saying that without significant reductions in contacts, the health system will be overwhelmed and mortality will exceed the first wave totals before a vaccine has time to take effect. Dr Brown stressed the significance of overloaded ICU units.