THUNDER BAY - With the number of COVID-19 cases steadily rising in Ontario, the provincial government is reminding the public to continue to follow public health guidelines in order to weather an inevitable second wave.
“Today’s numbers are a cause for concern for all of us,” said Premier Doug Ford during his daily media briefing. “Let me be crystal clear, every option is on the table. We will take every step necessary, including further shutdowns.”
Ontario reported 313 positive COVID-19 cases on Monday, which is the highest daily total since June. The majority of cases are from three regions – Peel, Toronto, and Ottawa and the five-day rolling average is 249 new cases.
Throughout much of the summer, the province saw the number of daily cases decline, with several long stretches in July and August of fewer than 100 new cases per day.
Ford attributes the rise in positive cases to large social gatherings and people ignoring public health guidelines.
“The most common answer is social gatherings,” he said. “It’s not bars per se or restaurants. I’m begging you, please cut out the social gatherings. It’s just not worth it. COVID is ramping up again and we just can’t have the large social gatherings. We have to make sure we remain vigilant.”
If cases continue to rise and there is the need to halt further reopenings or even shut down sectors the economy, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the provincial government would take a regional approach.
“We don’t want to have to move things back a stage. People have worked so hard to get us to this point, but if we have to, we will,” she said. “We need to continue to understand what is happening in different regions.”
“We want to, if possible, take a more regional approach if we need to do anything rather than step back the entire province.”
Since the start of the pandemic last spring, there has been talk of a second wave hitting in the fall. Whether or not this is the start of a second wave cannot be determined just yet.
Elliott said province is using three models for a potential second wave, which includes small surges, peaks and valleys of new cases, and a sudden surge, similar to what is happening this week.
“We did quite well with respect to wave one, but wave two is coming,” she said. “The most important thing that we all need to continue to do is to please continue to follow the public health guidance.”
“The second wave will be more complicated and more difficult to deal with than the first wave because we also have flu season approaching in addition to COVID-19. We also have reduced capacity in our hospitals.”
Hospital capacity is reduced because more people have been moved out of long-term care facilities that experienced outbreaks and the backlog of surgeries and procedures that were halted last spring due to the first wave.
Elliott said there are no plans to halt or postpone more medical procedures at this time.
“We do not want to do that,” she said. “We know many people are very concerned about having had cancer surgeries, cardiac surgeries put off, we don’t’ want them to have to go through that again.”
The province will be release its preparedness plan for a second wave in the coming weeks, which Ford says is more than likely coming.
“Yeah, I believe it’s coming,” Ford said. “I hope to god I’m wrong. But it’s coming. We don’t see a spike like this so quickly.”
The Thunder Bay District has not reported a positive case of COVID-19 since Aug. 20 and there are currently no active cases in the district.