A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Ontario predicts COVID-19 health system strain; Quebec mulls school closures

Ontario predicts COVID-19 health system strain; Quebec mulls school closures

New projections suggest Ontario’s surging COVID-19 caseload is likely to strain its health-care system to the point where surgeries will be cancelled, while Quebec’s premier is raising the possibility of school closures around the holidays and Alberta is tightening restrictions.

Those were three major developments Thursday as the situation with the stubborn pandemic darkened on several fronts across Canada.

“Key indicators of the pandemic continue to worsen,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table.

The latest modelling suggests that a five per cent virus growth rate, which Brown called a “slightly optimistic” scenario, would put Ontario on track for 6,500 new cases a day by mid-December. Under a three per cent growth rate, it would be 2,500 cases daily.

Just two weeks ago, it had been predicted that new daily infections would hold steady between 800 and 1,200 for a while.

Ontario reported a record-breaking 1,575 new infections Thursday, along with 18 more deaths.

Brown said that under any of the latest projected scenarios, intensive care occupancy would exceed the key threshold of 150 beds across the province.

“It’s that point at which we need to start cancelling planned surgeries and we can no longer deliver the full slate of planned care right now,” he said.

The Ontario Medical Association, which represents tens of thousands of physicians, urged the provincial government to lower thresholds that determine when restrictions should be tightened — by as much as 50 per cent in some cases.

The plea followed a Toronto Star reported that the provincial government ignored the advice of its own public health agency in designing the tiered and colour-coded alerts introduced last week.

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the government’s plan had the blessing of the province’s top doctor and that the “balanced” approach takes mental health and the economy into account.

“It’s easy for people to say, ‘Just shut everything down’ when they’re guaranteed a paycheque every single week,” he said.

Quebec reported 1,365 new COVID-19 cases and 42 more deaths, including nine in 24 hours.

Premier Francois Legault said he was considering temporarily closing schools to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Legault said 1,174 classrooms across the province are currently closed, but most alarming was that 324 of them had been shut in the last two days.

”It remains the last solution, but currently, when one looks at the situation, we should not exclude any solution,” he said in Quebec City.

New public health measures were to come into effect Friday in Alberta, where cases, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions continue to climb.

Alberta reported 860 new cases in Thursday’s update, along with 225 people in hospital and 51 in intensive care.

“We are at a dangerous juncture in our province,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

“The growing number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions are challenging our ability to continue delivering non-urgent health services that Albertans depend on.”

Kenney announced indoor group sports and fitness classes in major centres are to be stopped for two-weeks, along with amateur singing, dancing and theatre groups.

Bars, lounges and pubs must stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. in certain hard-hit areas and the government is “strongly recommending” there be no social gatherings in homes.

Earlier Thursday, more than 430 doctors and three health unions urged short, sharp public health restrictions to curb Alberta’s soaring COVID-19 caseload, including a shutdown of indoor dining, bars, theatres and religious services.

Meanwhile, Manitoba entered the first day of widespread restrictions meant to stem steadily increasing COVID-19 cases.

That province has the biggest per-capita caseload of active infections in Canada and reported nine new deaths on Thursday, matching the record for fatalities set only a day earlier.

Gatherings are now limited to five people, in-person religious services are cancelled and non-essential stores and restaurants can only offer curbside pickup or delivery. Bars, museums and theatres are closed and recreational activities are suspended. Schools remain open.

Kelly O’Leary, co-owner of the Sapphire Hair Lounge in Winnipeg, had hoped salons would be spared restrictions because of the expensive precautions already taken since the spring.

“When the news of the shutdown came, it was definitely a punch in the stomach,” she said.

Saskatchewan reported 111 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, the sixth day in a row the province recorded more than 100 new cases. The provincial government said new public health measures were to be announced Friday.

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

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Heather Buelow, owner of Aerial Edge Studio in Blackfalds, says she has spent ‘all of my saving keeping the studio going’ through government-mandated shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Either open in-person or close permanently: Central Alberta yoga studio defying rules

A central Alberta woman is allowing clients back into her yoga and… Continue reading

Sandra Schmirler Foundation donates $10,000 to Red Deer hospital

Donation will go towards electronic fetal heart monitoring project

A sustainability audit for Westerner Park suggested 33 changes, including more city involvement. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park expands volunteer program

Westerner Park is recruiting volunteers to fill several positions. The new Volunteer… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
Appeal Court restores privileges for man who killed five at Calgary house party

EDMONTON — The Alberta Court of Appeal has restored some privileges for… Continue reading

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

Most Read