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COVID to overwhelm Ontario health system unless contacts reduced, deaths could soar

Projections show there could be about 500 COVID-19 patients in intensive care by mid-January and potentially more than 1,000 by February under more severe scenarios
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Ontario’s health system will be overwhelmed and deaths from COVID-19 will exceed those in the pandemic's first wave unless there is a significant reduction in contacts between residents, data released Tuesday indicates.

Projections from the province show that under current restrictions, daily deaths from the virus will double from 50 to 100 between now and the end of February.

The data also shows a quarter of the province's hospitals now have no intensive care unit beds free and another quarter have only one or two beds free.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said health-care providers will face difficult choices in the weeks ahead.

"These are choices that no doctor ever wants to make, and no family ever wants to hear," he said. "There will be choices about who will get the care they need and who will not."

Projections show there could be about 500 COVID-19 patients in intensive care by mid-January and potentially more than 1,000 by February under more severe scenarios.

The grim predictions come as Premier Doug Ford's government is set to unveil new restrictions aimed at curbing the virus later Tuesday.

The new data shows the growth of COVID-19 is accelerating in Ontario, growing at seven per cent on the "worst days."

Despite a provincial lockdown imposed last month, Brown said many people are not avoiding contact with people outside of their household.

"If we do not follow these restrictions, COVID-19 will continue to aggressively spread before vaccines have the chance to protect us," he said. "This will have tragic consequences for us, for our health, for our province, for our health system."

The projections also said 40 per cent of the province's nursing homes are experiencing outbreaks of the virus.

Deaths continue to spike in long-term care with 198 residents and 2 staff dying of the virus since Jan. 1.

"The number of those outbreaks has increased and you can see that the size of these outbreaks is substantial," Brown said. "It's important to note that this is now spreading across all parts of the province."

Ontario reported 2,903 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including eight new cases of a variant from the United Kingdom.

The province also reported 41 more deaths linked to the virus.

A total of 222,023 Ontarians have tested positive for COVID-19, with 186,829 cases resolved and 5,053 deaths.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2020.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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