Surging pandemic has Ontario close to cancelling non-essential surgeries again

TORONTO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Ontario will likely have to suspend non-essential surgeries again starting in two weeks, as surging coronavirus cases fill hospital intensive care units (ICU), according to modeling released by Canada’s most populous province on Thursday.

The data shows Ontario on track to hit 6,500 new COVID-19 cases per day by the end of December with 5% growth rate per day. The province on Thursday reported a record 1,575 new COVID-19 cases.

In all scenarios projected in the data, the province will reach 150 ICUs filled by COVID-19 patients in two weeks.

“This threshold of 150 beds is important because it’s that point at which we need to start cancelling planned surgeries,” said Dr. Steini Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table. “Key indicators continue to worsen.”

Ontario is close to 6% growth rate based on the past few days of data and Brown said it was reasonable to think 5% growth in cases is a “current or even slightly optimistic scenario.”

“Even with new restrictions implemented today you’d still see continued climb,” Brown said. “I do not believe there’s a way the cases will change without action.”

On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford defended his government’s reopening framework issued last week. On Wednesday, the Toronto Star newspaper reported that he ignored expert advice in creating a framework that sets a cap of 10% of tests coming back positive before stricter regulations take effect.

Next door province Quebec on Thursday reported an additional 1,365 cases and 42 deaths due to the pandemic. That province’s government has been weighing whether to close schools temporarily to tackle the surge.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters in Quebec City he would speak with unions about possibly extending the school year into summer if needed. Another option is extending Christmas break.

“For me, this is the last solution,” Legault said of closing schools. “But we cannot exclude any solution.”

Quebec has managed to keep most schools open this fall, despite shuttering bars, gyms and restaurant dine-in service in hotspots like Montreal. (Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio)