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Coronavirus Updates Canada: Ontario Says It Expects Up to 15,000 Deaths

Without physical distancing measures, up to 100,000 people in Ontario could have died over the course of the pandemic.
April 3, 2020, 12:55pm
Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Thanks to physical distancing measures, the province expects 1,600 deaths in April. Frank Gunn/CP

Updated at 1 p.m. (EDT): Ontario is projecting anywhere between 3,000 to 15,000 deaths caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), adding the estimate would have been 100,000 if the province didn’t pursue rigorous physical distancing, said Ontario Public Health.

Thanks to physical distancing measures, the province expects 1,600 deaths in April.

If strict measures were implemented, the province would expect 250 deaths in April, the president of public health, Peter Donnelly, told reporters on Friday.

Ontario currently has 2,793 recorded COVID-19 cases—the second highest rate in the country behind Quebec. Nursing homes have been hit the hardest, with 41 facilities declaring outbreaks. At least 40 nursing and retirement home residents have died.

The death rate for people over 80 in Ontario is already a staggering 16 percent, Donnelly said.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) trajectory in Ontario is following early patterns seen in the United States, and is not quite as good as the one in British Columbia, Donnelly added.

But models and projections are very inexact, Donnelly said, adding they’re using current data to underscore the need for strict physical distancing.

Donnelly reiterated the need for Ontarians to vigilantly maintain physical distancing measures, otherwise the number of infections will continue to increase.

“It’s important to be transparent with the public about the scale of the challenges, which, together, we are facing,” Donnelly said.

According to Ontario Public Health, the pandemic could last 18 months to two years.

Trudeau strikes COVID-19 deal with Amazon

Canada has signed an agreement with Amazon Canada to ship medical supplies—surgical masks, face shields, gowns, ventilators, test kits—to provinces and territories, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, to help fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

If the pandemic continues to strain Canada’s healthcare system, medicare workers will suffer from a dearth of medical equipment, so the country has been working to urgently attain supplies, Trudeau said.

Trudeau also responded to the U.S. President Donald Trump’s request that company 3M stop supplying Canada with N95 masks.

The prime minister told reporters the move would be a “mistake” and Trump shouldn’t block back and forth trade between the two countries.

As of Friday, $100 million is being allocated to meet food needs for the “most vulnerable” Canadians, including for food banks and Indigenous and northern communities, Trudeau said.

Trudeau won’t reveal Canada projections

Ford announced his decision to disclose COVID-19 data on Thursday, hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he will not share federal numbers until sufficient analysis takes place.

“Those analyses depend directly on Canadians’ behaviours,” Trudeau said.

Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu said releasing federal data is complicated by the fact that every province and territory has its own COVID-19 realities.

“What it looks like in Ontario is actually completely different than what it might look like in B.C., for example, or Northwest Territories,” Hajdu told the Canadian Press.

But three weeks ago, Hajdu estimated that between 11 million and 26 million people in Canada could become infected with COVID-19.

On Thursday, she said the projection stands.

Hajdu said the death toll will depend on how well Canadians engage in physical distancing; if everyone gets sick at the same time, hospitals will become overwhelmed and won’t be able to care for everyone.

For the death toll to remain low, infections need to spread out over time.

In Canada, confirmed or presumed COVID-19 cases have topped 11,000, with 138 recorded deaths—a death rate of about 1 percent. There are now 15 confirmed infections in Indigenous communities, many of which lack the resources and infrastructure—running water, healthcare access—to curb the spread.

Montreal is officially the country’s COVID-19 hotspot, with about one-quarter of Canadian cases. Quebec Premier François Legault and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante are now clamping down on the city with hefty $1,000-$6,000 fines for those who do not practice physical distancing, the National Post reported.

In Toronto, it is now illegal to stand too close to others in public parks and squares, with few exceptions. Offenders face a $5,000 fine.

Physical distancing requires Canadians to stay at home as much as possible and maintain 2 metres from others in public spaces.

Troops prepare to fight COVID-19

Nearly 85 percent of Canada troops are in self-isolation to prepare for COVID-19 operations, according to Global News.

“Their orders are to stay home and to stay healthy,” Canada’s top soldier, Gen. Jon Vance, told Global.

Troops are being made available to help civil authorities fight COVID-19, with remote and isolated Indigenous communities being their top priority.

If deployed, support will include additional medical personnel, much-needed supplies, and efforts to create clean drinking water.

Quebec has asked for assistance in its northern regions and Trudeau confirmed that Canadian rangers will be sent to northern Quebec to help install tents and infrastructure necessary to fight the virus.

Debt still weighing on Canadians

Even after the Trudeau government announced Canada’s biggest economic support package in history, Canadians are still nervous about debt—specifically, credit card debt.

Last week, Canada’s central bank slashed its target for the overnight rate by 50 basis points to 0.25 percent, which effectively makes borrowing easier. But credit card debt is significantly more expensive, with interest rates still hovering around 20 percent.

According to CBC News, the average Canadian credit card has about $4,326 on it (as of the end of December), and people are asking the government to make credit card providers lower their rates.

Canadian cases soaring

As of Friday morning, the country has 11,747 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 152 deaths, most of which have been recorded in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario.

In Brampton, Ontario, at least 16 negative test results were sent out to patients on Tuesday and Wednesday, even though they had tested positive for the coronavirus. Medical health officials have since apologized.

Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:

British Columbia: 1,121

Alberta: 968

Saskatchewan: 206

Manitoba: 167

Ontario: 2,793

Quebec: 5,518

Newfoundland and Labrador: 183

New Brunswick: 91

Nova Scotia: 193

Prince Edward Island: 22

Yukon: 6

Northwest Territories: 2

Nunavut: 0

Late Thursday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 1 million, with more than 45,000 deaths.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.

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