TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s most populous province Ontario may have to begin suspending non-essential surgeries again starting in two weeks as surging coronavirus cases fill hospital intensive care units, according to modeling released on Thursday.
Rising cases in neighboring Quebec prompted the province’s government to weigh temporary school closures, while Alberta, which has Canada’s second-highest rate of active cases, banned group fitness and team sports for two weeks in some regions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to talk to premiers on Thursday about the spread of the virus, having already urged them to do more.
Ontario’s data puts the province on track to hit 6,500 new cases per day by the end of December with a 5% increase per day. It reported a record 1,575 new cases on Thursday.
The province of 14.6 million people will reach 150 ICUs filled by COVID-19 patients in two weeks, in all projected scenarios.
“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, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, emphasizing that “key indicators” in the province “continue to worsen.”
Ontario is close to a 6% case increase based on the past few days of data and Brown said it was reasonable to think 5% is a “current or even slightly optimistic scenario.”
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford defended his government’s reopening framework issued last week. On Wednesday, the Toronto Star newspaper reported he ignored expert advice in creating a framework that sets a cap of 10% of tests coming back positive before stricter regulations take effect.
Quebec, Canada’s worst hit province, on Thursday reported an additional 1,365 cases and 42 deaths.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters 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.”
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by David Gregorio and Grant McCool)