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Despite increasing outbreaks, COVID-19 daily caseload dropping: medical officer of health

A cause for optimism is that the time it takes for caseloads to double has increased to about 14 days, Dr. Karim Kurji says
2020 02 10 Dr. Karim Kurji  2 DK
File photo/NewmarketToday

While York Region public health continues to grapple with increasing numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care, seniors and group homes, daily caseload growth is slowing, according to the medical officer of health.

"We are still having challenges controlling the outbreaks at long-term care and congregrate living spaces where two-thirds of our deaths are occurring," Dr. Karim Kurji said in a video update yesterday.

Sixty of York Region's 87 COVID-19 related deaths were residents of long-term care and group homes, with the majority — 458, or 32 per cent — of its 1,430 cases caused by outbreaks at 39 facilities, as of yesterday. 

However, the curve appears to be flattening, Kurji said, as the number of daily cases appears to be dropping — with periodic "unwelcome spikes."

The "doubling time" — the time it takes for caseloads to double — has increased to about 14 days, Kurji said.

"This is very good in comparison to other jurisdictions," he added.

Modelling at the national level indicates those trends are occurring in provinces across the country.

In updated projections on the number of potential cases and deaths in Canada from COVID-19, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, said the number of new cases is doubling every 16 days, as compared to every three days previously.

However, new modelling also reflects the "heavy toll" the virus is taking on Canada's vulnerable populations, Tam said, with most deaths — about 79 per cent — occurring in long-term care facilities and seniors homes.

She said the virus is also difficult to contain in facilities such as homeless shelters, prisons and group homes.

Kurji indicated York Region public health is challenged in controlling outbreaks in shelters in the southern portion of the region because many individuals are asymptomatic.

Hospital teams and York Region Paramedic Services are assisting with the testing of shelter residents, as well as at long-term care and group homes, he said.

Kurji advises residents to "remain vigilant" in practising good hand hygiene, "respiratory etiquette" and physical distancing, while staying at home as much as possible.

In particular, residents aged over 70 should remain at home, and rely on family, friends and neighbours to provide essential shopping, he said.

"I would like to point out that one in five individuals over the age of 70 who is tested positive happens to die," Kurji said.    

For the virus to die out, the average number of people to whom an infected individual passes the virus has to drop below one, Tam said in her update. Physical distancing and self-isolation have limited the average number of people each case infects to slightly more than one.