Peel’s lockdown failing to contain virus as cases surge–713 infections reported Saturday; Ontario also records highest number yet
It’s a new year, but Peel is seeing the same troubling number of new coronavirus cases.
Ontario reported 3,363 new infections Saturday, its highest daily number since the pandemic was declared in March. The Region of Peel, with 713 new infections (more than any other single day previously) recorded the highest number of any Ontario municipality, followed by Toronto with 700, York Region with 395 and 226 in Windsor-Essex.
A person with the virus can take up to two weeks to start exhibiting symptoms, which means it is too early to tell whether Ontario’s province-wide lockdown — enacted on December 26 — will have any success in curbing the spread of the virus. However, if Peel is any indicator, it’s clear that lockdowns are not working.
Peel has been in lockdown since November 23 as case numbers in the region have been consistently high throughout the pandemic. At the start of the holiday season, daily case counts were slowly starting to decline and it looked like the urgings of Peel public health officials and the consistent recommendations for people to avoid social gatherings and remain apart, were actually starting to take effect. The recent surge in cases suggests that is not the case.
The Region’s latest weekly epidemiological report describes a regional health network in desperate need of relief. Prior to the latest data, between December 8 and 14, acute bed occupancy was already at 94 percent, well above the 90 percent threshold established to help ensure local hospitals are able to admit patients in need of care. Intensive care capacity sat at 89 percent, dangerously close to the threshold and teetering on the point where patients most in need of emergency treatments would have to be sent elsewhere. Hospitals in Peel have already had to transfer some patients to other facilities due to the need for beds required to treat those with severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Many of Peel's core indicators to signal control over the spread of the coronavirus are continuing to slip in the wrong direction.
The most recent data from the Region show Peel's three full-service hospitals were at 91 percent capacity for acute care and 90 percent for intensive care, between December 15 and 21.
The virus is also starting to breach the defences of vulnerable, rural public health agencies. The Southwestern Public Health Unit, which includes Oxford and Elgin counties, saw its highest daily case count of the pandemic last week with 71 new infections, surpassing its previous daily high of 47. A statement from Southwestern Public Health notes this marks a “critical point” in its fight against the virus.
“Once we start to see daily increases approaching 100 per day, it becomes very difficult to conduct contact tracing within 24 hours to contain the virus,” states Dr. Joyce Lock, Medical Officer of Health at Southwestern Public Health in a press release. “Our team is working at maximum capacity, our local health care system is strained, and we are urgently asking for your support to modify behaviours to stop the spread.”
Dr. Lock also points out that the Southwestern Public Health region is recording a COVID-19 percent positivity rate of 3.5 percent, exceeding the “critical threshold” of 2.5 percent “that health authorities have used to determine if a region is at-risk of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.”
The Region of Peel is seeing a percent positivity rate nearly three-times that of the Southwestern Region, sitting at 9.3 percent for the week of December 13.
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