Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disease Outbreak in Ontario: Situation Updates and ResponseA close look at the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak in Ontario, Canada, the provinces’ framework for reopening, and road to recovery.
COVID-19 cases in Canada are still on the rise, recording more than 233,000 coronavirus cases within its borders since the start of the outbreak. The country is already on its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as confirmed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ontario, with a population of approximately 14.75 million people, is Canada’s second-largest province. It is home to Ottawa, the country’s capital, and Toronto its most populous city. Both the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, the epicenters of the outbreak, were hit the hardest and leading with the highest number of registered cases.
To date, the province of Ontario has confirmed 75,715 cases of COVID-19 and reported 63,919 resolved cases. The virus death toll now stands at 3,127 where nearly 2,000 of which were among long-term care residents.
Ontario Coronavirus Situation
Across Ontario, families, businesses, workers, and the entire community has felt the extreme impact that the outbreak created. The rise sharp of coronavirus infections prompted the local government and health officials to re-impose stringent measures and restrictions to contain the spread and ensure the health and safety of its people.
COVID-19 Cases and Statistics
The average daily case counts have almost reached its peak levels. Ontario registered more than 1,000 average daily cases. Its rolling seven-day average of cases is already 914 - the highest since the pandemic started.
The highest numbers of COVID-19 infections are recorded in the four major hotspots - Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, and Ottawa. Most new infections continue to be in the Greater Toronto Area.
According to the provincial government, the surge in new cases may be the result of family gatherings and people gathering together during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Isaac Bogoch, an infectious-diseases specialist at Toronto’s University Health Network expressed his concern that the rise in cases isn’t good. He added that new measures could be tailored to target those issues, saying “Let’s figure out what’s driving this and act accordingly.”
Daily epidemiologic summary of COVID-19 activity - which includes changes in case counts, deaths, cases by demographic, and long-term care - is based on the data provided by health care units across Ontario.
COVID-19 Testing in Ontario
Coronavirus testing plays a vital role in monitoring and managing the pandemic. It’s important for everyone especially those who are returning to work to ensure the safety of their families and the community.
Across the province, testing is being done in coordination with the Public Health Ontario Laboratory and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Public Health Ontario has six testing laboratories including 10 hospital networks and three private lab networks.
The amount of COVID-19 testing is also related to the jump in cases. In an interview with CBC News Network, Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist with Trillium Health Partners, shared that for Ontario, the spike in COVID-19 cases can be related to the increase in testing.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said that the goal of the province is to conduct 50,000 COVID-10 tests a day. Based on a recent report, she shared that while more than 30,000 tests were processed by the provincial laboratories it is still below the targeted daily goal.
Increasing mobile testing centers in Toronto and Peel Region is already part of the plan.
COVID-19 Timeline in Ontario
Here’s a look back at how the coronavirus pandemic spread and created an impact across the province, and how the government responded.
January: First coronavirus case
In late January, the first presumptive case in Canada was confirmed. The male in his 50s who traveled in Wuhan - the epicenter of COVID-19 - and Guangzhou was admitted to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. His wife was the second confirmed case.
February: Travel-related cases
Travel-related cases started in February. A plane carrying 200 Canadian passengers from Wuhan, China arrived at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario, undergoing 14-day quarantine. Ontario health officials also reported the first resolved case of COVID-19, a woman in London.
March: Local transmission and testing
Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency last March 17, 2020, as the province experienced an increase in transmission, including gradual implementation of restrictions.
April: Long-term care home crisis
Ontario calls on the military to help out in long-term care homes. In late April, almost 70% to 80% of all COVID-19 deaths had been attributed to retirement and long-term care homes.
May to August: Reopening plans
From May to August, a three-stage plan was instituted in the province. This aims to lift economic restrictions while making sure that social distancing and other measures are in place, including the size of gatherings. The return-to-school of public school children was also considered.
Some stores in Ontario also start to reopen in May. In June, the province entered Stage 2 reopening, except for the provinces of Toronto, Windsor-Essex, and Peel region. It was in late August when the rate of new cases had slowed significantly.
September: Influx of COVID-19 cases
Ontario saw a continuing upward trend of new infections. Due to the surge of COVID-19 cases, Ontario continues to re-impose restrictions to mitigate the risk of transmission especially on the provinces' major hotspots - Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa.
As such, Premier Ford set a four-week hold on the further lifting of restrictions last September 8.
In late September, Ontario reported 700 new cases, its highest daily record since the outbreak.
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) proposed that Toronto and Ottawa be rolled back to Phase 2 restrictions. The OHA stated that "without public health measures in place to limit opportunities for disease transmission, Ontario will soon see higher numbers of hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units, and more deaths.”
The largest increase in cases started in October wherein 732 new cases were registered. On October 24 and 25, Ontario reported a significant number of cases with 978 and 1,042 new infections respectively.
As such, Premier Ford mandated a province-wide wearing of face masks when social distancing isn't possible. He encourages residents to limit contact with people, avoid non-essential travel, and stay home except for essential activities. He also announced that the provinces of Peel, Ottawa, Toronto, and York be rolled back to Modified Stage 2 for 28 days.
To limit the spread of coronavirus, Ontario tightens restriction in its hotspot regions for at least 28 days and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. These include limited social gatherings and closure of indoor food and drink services. Specific businesses are also prohibited from operating. These restrictions are applicable in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto.
Considering the seven-day average hit, provincial projections show that the virus growth is slowing and health officials say that the province is seeing a “gentler curve.” While cases continue to climb, it’s at a steady level between 800 to 1,200 per day. The four COVID-19 hotspot regions of Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, and Ottawa have already reverted to a modified Stage 2 of the province’s economic reopening plan.
Ontario COVID-19 Response
The COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation. Ontario continues to work with the Federal and local government, health officials, in taking necessary measures and imposing restrictions in response to the evolving situation brought about by this pandemic.
At the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 are the heroic health care workers, essential workers, and individuals who are making sacrifices to keep their families and the communities safe.
In response to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ontario has created a 3-Phase Plan:
Phase 1: Protect
Government actions and Ontario's $17 billion Action Plan: Responding to COVID‑19 focuses on the health and wellbeing of its people, support for frontline workers, essential workers, and business, and immediate support to its people. Emergency orders are set in place.
Phase 2: Rest
A stage-by-stage approach in reopening Ontario's economy and loosening emergency measures; while making sure that public health and workplace safety remains a top priority.
Phase 3: Recover
As Ontario transitions to the "new normal," everyone's health and safety will continue to be a top priority. The government will work to lead Ontario’s economic recovery by creating jobs and opportunities across the province.
Ontario, it’s local government, health system, and its people are working proactively in implementing a powerful strategy to monitor, detect, test, and isolate cases of the novel coronavirus. To ensure the health and safety of every Ontarians and the community, the Ministry of Health has taken several steps to prevent and control the further spread of the infection. This includes the implementation of enhanced measures and coordination with the federal and provincial partners.
Ontario also places special focus on long-term care homes experiencing outbreaks and in need of urgent support through the COVID‑19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes. COVID‑19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People is also implemented to protect vulnerable people living in high-risk settings.
COVID-19 Framework for Reopening
In the government’s ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus, a framework that outlines how businesses, services, and public spaces will be reopened in gradual stages is created. This framework highlights the government’s commitment to providing support and guidance to businesses that are getting ready to reopen. It serves as a roadmap as the province moves forward and works together towards recovery.
Ontario took a gradual, staged, and regional approach as it reopens through a 3-Stage plan. It defines the principles to be used as the province reopens responsibly and leads the economy back to life. Throughout these stages, the number priority is the public's health and safety, while balancing the needs of the people and the economy.
Stage 1: Open select businesses and workplaces and allow small gatherings
Stage 2: Open more workplaces, services, and outdoor spaces, and some large gatherings
Stage 3: Open all workplaces and services responsibly and relax restrictions on public gatherings
In all these stages, public health advice, safety measures, and personal responsibility are emphasized.
Ontario’s Path to Recovery
While the situation is still evolving, Ontario continues to take measures in response to global health. You can do your part by taking essential steps to protect your health, ensure the safety of your family, and reduce exposure to the virus.
It’s essential to take extra precautions and necessary actions to help stop the spread.
- Practice physical distancing by staying 2 meters away.
- Practice good hygiene through frequent hand washing.
- Use face mask appropriately when going out in public indoor spaces.
- Stay home as much as possible especially when sick.
- Avoid close contact with others.
- Understand the basics, symptoms, and treatment of COVID-19.
- Get tested if you think you've been exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Isolate for 14 days if you travel outside Canada.
With everyone’s commitment, hard work, and preparedness especially the health professionals and frontline heroes, the province of Ontario is confident that they will continue to make progress in their fight to defeat COVID-19.