A Note from John About COVID-19 – Sept 25

I was holding out hope that recent COVID spikes would cause enough Toronto residents to change their behaviour for us to see a leveling off the upward trend. After today, with its 237 new cases, I’m finding that increasingly less likely.

That’s at the tail end of a week that saw Toronto cases hit 1,104 – up from previous weeks of 617, 385, 265, 206, and 161. Simple math shows that, over those five weeks, the number of cases increased by 685%. Project that ahead to Halloween and we would have 7,562 cases per day. I can’t imagine that we would ever reach that number but, if we got to even half that, society would shut down and people might be dying in hospital hallways.

Toronto’s largest number of recorded daily cases, ever, was 300 on April 15. Even if you think that earlier number would have been higher with more testing, today’s number, as part of an exponential increase, is extremely scary.

I am greatly concerned that the careless action of relatively few people will send us back towards lockdown. For many restaurant owners and other businesses, I have spoken with, that’s when they may be forced to turn in the keys. We all know those people. And we all know somebody in a long-term care home who will face isolation and terrible risk if the COVID spread finds its way there.

Let’s care about them.

What are the other trends? About two-thirds of those testing positive continue to be under 40, with half of those in their 20s. Large percentages of young people who test positive continue to have no symptoms, and about half of all new cases are attributed to “community spread.”

Translated loosely, community spread means we don’t know where the cases came from.

Somebody was out and about and ended up with COVID. Cases of unknown origin make contact tracing extremely problematic. This then increases the reproduction rate, causing the numbers to spiral out of control.

If this continues, we are only weeks away from big trouble. On the good news front, of those who test positive, lower percentages are having serious complications; COVID deaths are still relatively low, and hospital capacity is not a problem at this point.

And there has been a small tightening of regulations. Strip clubs, several of which have experienced outbreaks, have been shut down. The Province has also told bars and restaurants they must stop serving liquor at 11 p.m. and close by midnight, except for pickup and delivery. Enforcement has been stepped up.

Somewhat more controversial is a move by the Province to reduce testing of most people who show no symptoms. There are several important exceptions, including anyone identified as having been in close contact with someone who tested positive. The new guidelines also don’t apply to groups that are at higher risk, such as front line health workers, who should be tested frequently regardless of symptoms.

The reasons for the change are twofold: with long lineups for testing, the government wanted to reduce the numbers by eliminating those who needed it least; data shows that those who had neither symptoms nor contact with an infected person seldom tested positive.

I hope this is a temporary fix, only until more testing is available.

Finally, as those following the rules must be getting tired of hearing, how bad this gets depends largely on us. If everyone just stayed six feet away from others and wore masks whenever they can’t, cases would drop dramatically.

– John