Hospital capacity on the edge as Peel’s COVID case numbers decline slightly from November’s highs
It says a lot about Peel’s staggering COVID crisis when 400 cases a day is good news.
On Wednesday, there were no such numbers to brighten moods across Brampton and Mississauga.
The region reported 500 new cases Wednesday, 29 percent of the province's 1,723 new cases. Toronto, the only other region in lockdown, reported 410 new cases. Wednesday’s case count broke the region’s five-day streak of reporting lower cases than the day prior.
For anyone wishfully thinking they can let down their guard, consider this: Manitoba, which has made national headlines recently for having the highest per capita rate of all provinces, had 283 cases Tuesday, a rate of 2.02 per 10,000 residents, based on a provincial population of 1.4 million; Peel’s rate today was 3.33 per 10,000 residents, based on a population of 1.5 million.
Peel's daily COVID-19 case chart shows infection rates still remain alarmingly high
Peel’s hospitals are now in the danger zone. The most recent weekly epidemiological report states between November 17 and 23, acute care was beyond the danger threshold of 90 percent capacity, sitting at 95 percent, and intensive care capacity, at 87 percent, was about to reach the danger zone.
The region’s three full-service hospitals could soon face the worst case scenario of having no beds available to treat the sick. This is the fundamental problem the lockdown is aimed at preventing.
On the eve of Peel’s entry into its second lockdown, Premier Doug Ford told residents to only leave their home if absolutely necessary. With the first weekend under the new measures now over, not all residents followed the guidelines.
Peel Regional Police assisted Mississauga by-law officers in breaking up a party at a rental in the city Saturday night. Reports indicate upward of 60 people attended the party, resulting in 29 charges. All indoor gatherings are banned under the grey-lockdown level of the Province’s COVID-19 framework.
It’s not yet clear how the party will impact COVID-19 cases in the region, which continues to have the highest cumulative case count in the province. According to Public Health Ontario’s December 1 epidemiological update, Peel Public Health (PPH) reported 1,635 cases for every 100,000 residents.
“As you are able, do your part. Ignoring advice and regulations doesn't make you a freedom fighter. To me, it shows a certain callousness and disregard for fellow human beings that are impacted by this virus, often our community’s most vulnerable,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health, said at Mississauga’s weekly press conference Wednesday.
November 26 saw the region’s highest case count, with 572 new COVID-19 patients. The numbers declined slightly from this high-point over the next couple of days before an increase was reported Wednesday. The recent case numbers were: 517 on November 27; 516 November 28; 503 on November 29; 390 cases November 30; and 373 on December 1.
Weekly incidence rates for the region also remain high. The latest data from PPH show 288 cases per 100,000 residents in Brampton, followed by 127.7 in Caledon and 109.5 in Mississauga. According to information from the ICES database (a program run through academic and hospital collaborations and funded primarily through the Ontario Ministry of Health), of the 10 postal codes that have the highest test positivity rates in the province, four of them are in Peel; three of these are in Brampton and one is in Mississauga.
One positive change between the most recent report from PPH and the one prior is the increase of communication between the health unit and those who tested positive. Between November 10 and November 16, PPH was only able to contact 32 percent of positive cases within 24 hours. This increased to 62 percent between November 17 and 23, which is still significantly lower than the 90 percent target.
Of the near 27,000 cumulative cases in Peel Region, 63 percent have been in Brampton, which has remained one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in Canada.
NDP deputy leader and Brampton Centre MPP Sara Singh linked these numbers to Brampton’s proportion of essential workers, while speaking at Queen’s Park during question period on November 23, when she raised issue with the Province’s lack of resource allocation for the city.
Brampton NDP MPP and Duputy Leader of the party Sara Singh has criticized the Doug Ford PC government for failing to honour a recent resolution to provide adequate resources to Peel
“They deserve a lot more just than just our thanks. They need actual support. They desperately need hospital services. They need testing. They need paid sick days so that they can stay home when they're sick,” she said.
A day after this, all three Brampton NDP MPPs sent Premier Ford a letter, asking for paid sick days, investment in public health, and a plan to hire more personal support workers, among other asks. The letter stressed these actions will help ensure the current lockdown is successful.
The members also asked for support from Brampton’s two PC MPPs, Amarjot Sandhu and Prabmeet Sarkaria. Neither MPP responded to questions about the NDP’s call for support, Jared Walker, a spokesperson for the NDP, confirmed.
The Pointer reached out to Sandhu and Sarkaria about the demand for more support. They did not respond.
“Our community does not need Doug Ford to smile for the cameras while he passes through town, they need a government to step up and help the hardest-hit communities stop the spread, stop the devastation and stop our families from losing our precious loved ones,” Singh said in a news release.
Her request for paid sick days during question period was partially written off as falling under the responsibility of the federal government. Jane McKenna, a PC MPP representing the riding of Burlington, said Bill C2 will allow for paid sick leave and the Province is watching the progress the federal government is making on the bill.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), an external group that advises the Public Health Agency of Canada, said behind health care workers, Indigenous communities, and the elderly, frontline workers, such as grocery store employees, should be among the first to be vaccinated. Given the high proportion of frontline workers in Brampton, vaccinations could be a game changer in the city, but this might not happen for months.
Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Health Minister, did not commit to this recommendation, saying such details will be sorted out by the Province’s Vaccine Task Force.
The second lockdown has caused the City of Mississauga to temporarily lay off 1,100 part-time employees starting December 7. Rules under the grey zone prevent the use of fitness centres or community hubs, places where many part-time employees worked.
“The lay-offs are a direct result of City program cancellations and facility closures, not having work available for part-time employees during the shut-down of non-essential services,” Paul Mitcham, Mississauga’s chief administrative officer and city manager, said in a press release.
The city previously laid off 2,000 part-time and non-essential employees in April when the province was under its first lockdown. The City of Brampton followed in Mississauga’s steps at the time, announcing its own plans to lay off thousands of employees days after. The City of Brampton has not stated if any layoffs will occur during the second lockdown.
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