If we are searching for glimmers of good news, Toronto’s new case numbers are levelling off, with 3281 compared to 3237 and 3267 the week before.
But Ontario set a frightening new record with more than 1800 cases today. Hospitalizations, which always follow case numbers, are increasing steadily, as is the number of people needing intensive care. Higher ICU numbers mean higher death counts in weeks to come – not only those felled by the virus – but others who can’t get needed surgery as beds fill up.
These frightening indicators do not mean the lockdown isn’t working. Infectious disease experts will tell you, rather, that more should have been done sooner and that the numbers would be considerably higher if the exponential increase had gone unchecked.
One of the key numbers to look at is the reproductive rate – the average number of persons someone with the virus will transmit it to. If that’s at 1, the numbers remain constant. But Toronto has been around 1.1 recently, and when you are dealing with more than 3000 daily new cases as a base, even a slight increase above 1 has dire consequences.
Another emerging area of concern is the positivity rate among teenagers. This rate is the percentage of people being tested who are positive. In the 14-17 and 18-23 age groups recently, that number has been close to 10% – the highest of any age group. This is a subset of those who go for testing, usually because they have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has, so it does not indicate that 10% of those in that age group have COVID. But it may mean that the prevalence of the virus in those age groups is much higher than we would like.
It appears that younger people are far less likely to become seriously ill from COVID and that many of them who have it will show no symptoms. But that does not mean they are less likely to transmit it to others in their household.
Please encourage everyone with whom you are in close contact to not only keep themselves safe but to look out for your health as well. We all know the simple steps: avoid all unnecessary social contact, especially indoors; wear a mask; stay two metres away from anyone outside your household; wash your hands.