Models suggest Ontario has reached its COVID-19 peak, with fewer total cases anticipated in the province

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Speculative models released by the Ontario government suggest the province has reached the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with less spread happening in the community and much more happening in long-term care homes and other congregate settings.  

Previous models suggested the outbreak wouldn't peak until mid-May and that 80,000 cases would be reported by mid-April.

As of now, 11,184 cases have been confirmed in the province. 

The newest models suggest the province is tracking towards a best-case scenario in terms of case and hospitalization rates. Models released in early April suggested that with current physical distancing measures in place, the province was tracking towards 1,600 deaths and 80,000 new cases by today.

As of April 19, 584 deaths have been reported. 

Hospitalization rates have also held steady, with the number of patients in Ontario ICUs continuously hovering in the mid-200s. As of April 19, 802 COVID-19 patients are in hospital and 193 patients are using ventilators. 

The latest models were discussed by Matthew Anderson, President and CEO of Ontario Health, Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, at an April 20 media briefing. 

At the press conference, Brown said that public health interventions, including widespread adherence to physical distancing, have accelerated the peak to now. 

"The sacrifices people are making to stay home and wash their hands are making a difference," the model report reads. 

Brown said that the new models predict that about 20,000 people will be diagnosed with the novel coronavirus over the course of the outbreak. 

The worst-case scenario released earlier this month predicted 300,000 cases by mid-April with no social distancing measures. 

The models also suggest that hospitals have not been overwhelmed by the virus. 

"While several hundred new cases are identified daily in Ontario, hospitals across the province have not been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak as a result of capacity planning and the public health measures currently in place," the province said in a news release. 

"The rate of growth day-over-day is declining."

That said, other settings are seeing concerning increases in cases.

Brown said that the models show that the province is facing two different disease processes and that while community spread of COVID-19 seems to have peaked and is coming under control, spread in long-term care and other congregate settings (such as shelters, jails and group homes) seems to be growing.

The current models do not predict how many people will die of the virus, but the medical experts said death rates—particularly among elderly people in long-term care settings—are expected to rise. 

COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in 127 long-term care facilities.

But while Ontario does appear to have hit its peak, Dr. Yaffe said it's not yet time to consider lifting physical distancing orders, as doing so too soon could erase progress and bring about a second wave. 

"We have to continue to enhance public health measures to flatten the curve. The peak can last awhile. We have extended the emergency declaration until at least May 12," she said.

"Stay home so we can continue to stop the spread of COVID-19. Stay the course and stay strong." 

Yaffe said that when the province does start to lift some of the measures, it will so do gradually and will monitor the impact of each change, adding that once measures are lifted, it will be very difficult to have to implement them again. 

The province also encouraged residents to "stay the course" in a news release.

"To further reduce the number of cases and deaths, it remains critical that Ontarians continue to adhere to public health measures, including staying home and practicing physical distancing if they must go out for essential reasons only." 

The province is turning its attention to the spread in long-term care homes. 

Last week, Ontario launched the COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes, a plan that the province says will help prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes. 

These measures include enhancing and expanding testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; providing public health and infection control expertise; and redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce.

The new province-wide modelling data are encouraging, but we know that long-term care homes and other congregate settings will track on a different path,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, in a statement. 

We will continue to take aggressive action to support our most vulnerable residents and their caregivers.”

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