Modelling: Ontario’s ICU occupancy will be above 300 beds by Dec. 31

TORONTO – The province’s latest COVID-19 modelling shows that continuing case growth will increase outbreaks in long-term care homes, congregate settings and put a strain on the province’s intensive care units (ICUs).

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, presented the latest modelling on Monday morning.

According to the data, ICU occupancy will be above 300 beds within 10 days under any scenario.

The worst-case scenario, Brown said, would see occupancy above 1,500 beds by mid-January.

This is despite a number of restrictions put in place by the province over the past several weeks.

“This means that we will see cancellations of surgery, we will see reductions in access to necessary care and we will see the risk of delayed access to intensive care unit care for people who clearly need it immediately under any of these scenarios,” said Brown.

According to the modelling, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have increased by about 69.3 per cent, and ICU admissions due to the virus have increased by 83.1 per cent.

Officials also said that “daily mortality is increasing and based on forecasting will continue to increase.”

The “maximum likelihood estimate” presented in the modelling suggests a little under 50 deaths daily by mid-February.

The modelling also forecasted that by the end of January, if case growth flattens, it’s predicted that 2,000 cases per day will be reported by the province. At three per cent growth, that number jumps to nearly 6,300. The worst-case scenario modelled in the data is seven per cent growth, which shows a staggering 28,000 cases per day in the province.

Over the past two weeks, the province has seen a 1.19 per cent case increase per day. If that growth rate remained the same, the number of daily cases would be near 3,000 by the end of January.

Brown said that while the per cent positivity rate appears to be flattening in Ontario, the ability “to control case growth is still precarious.”

Brown noted in his presentation to media on Monday that a four-to-six week “hard lockdown,” similar to those used in Australia and France, could bring the number of daily cases down to under 1,000 per day by the end of January, and under 500 cases per day by mid-February.

“These jurisdictions have seen growth until they have implemented some form of a harder or more stringent lockdown,” said Brown.

He also noted that when a lockdown starts will be “very important” and said the earlier it starts, the better.

“The earlier work starts to reduce the contacts between people, the lower the case numbers will be,” Brown said.

One slide presented by Brown contained data if a hard lockdown started today (Dec. 21) compared to Dec. 28.

Under best case scenarios of zero per case growth, more than 11,000 cases could be prevented if a lockdown started immediately. Under a more severe five per cent case growth, more than 45,000 cases (and many deaths) would be presented by starting a lockdown immediately.

Brown also explained that if a hard lockdown were to happen, the impact would not be seen immediately, noting a spike in case numbers would occur in the first few weeks before a decline is realized.

“They (case numbers) won’t start coming down at the beginning of the lockdown necessarily… but they will come down over time,” he said.

When asked how long a hard lockdown should be in place, Brown replied, “We don’t believe anything less than four weeks will be effective.”