A troubling trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases recorded per day continues to emerge in Ontario as residents of the province end out their tenth full week in semi-quarantine.
Public health units reported 441 new coronavirus patients on Thursday, according to figures released by the provincial government Friday morning, representing an increase of 1.8 per cent for a total of 24,628 confirmed cases across Ontario.
Today’s increase, while disappointing, is unsurprising given how numbers have been trending in recent days. It’s also worrisome for many to see just three days after Ontario entered Stage 1 of its economic reopening plan.
Analysts first started noticing an uptick on Tuesday when new case numbers were revealed to have jumped from 340 to 427 overnight. Only 390 new cases were reported on Wednesday, but the number jumped once again to 413 in Thursday’s data drop.
This, after a week-and-a-half of watching new case numbers increase by well less than 400 and, in some cases, less than 300 every day.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing numbers are once again falling well below the provincial government’s own benchmark of at least 16,00o tests completed per day.
Only 11,276 tests were completed province-wide on Thursday, marking the fifth day in a row that Ontario has fallen short of its own (already-revised) benchmark.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford vowed during his daily pandemic press conferences on both Wednesday and Thursday that he would ensure test rates were ramped up again big time, going so far as to announce that a plan was coming for widespread, random, asymptomatic testing.
“I’m obsessed with this testing,” he said on Thursday at Queen’s Park. “Let’s see what happens next week and let’s start getting out there and testing everyone possible. That’s the only way we can get our hands around this.”
Provincial health officials are not quite clear on why test numbers have dropped or why case numbers are rising, but Ford said on Thursday that he wouldn’t hesitate to roll back or halt Stage 1 reopening plans if things don’t improve.
“I’m relying on our chief medical officer and the health table to give me that advice,” he said when asked about what it would take to shut down reopening plans. “I always have been and always will rely on medical advice and the science, always.”
Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott cautioned during the same press conference on Thursday that it’s too soon to tell whether or not the recent increase in new case numbers is related to the province’s reopening of select businesses and service types.
She also stated that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, had acknowledged the uptick but that he remains “satisfied that overall we are on a downward trend.”
“We will be watching this very closely as we get into next week, where we’re going to really start to see what the effect is on public health from the changes that have happened as the result of Stage 1,” she said.
“Then we’ll really see what’s happening out there in public health and that will influence where we go from there.”