TORONTO — The steps the Ontario government has taken so far to limit the spread of COVID-19 have likely saved tens of thousands of lives, public health officials said Friday as they called for still further action to limit the ravages of the global pandemic.
Projections released by the province showed 100,000 Ontario residents could likely have died over the full course of the pandemic if the province hadn't implemented measures such as widespread closures of businesses and schools in order to promote physical distancing.
As it is, the figures estimate thousands of people could still die without more aggressive measures in place.
Dr. Peter Donnelly, president of Public Health Ontario, said the data paint a stark picture of the gravity of the situation facing Ontario residents and the need for ongoing action.
"If we do everything that we can think of — everything that already has been done stays in place, all of the other measures that are being considered put in place — then I think we could reduce the death toll in Ontario to somewhere between 3,000 and 15,000," he said. "Where we end up depends on all of us."
Donnelly said the projections, which are far from set in stone, span the full course of the outbreak. He said that could last as long as 18 months to two years if second and third waves of the virus are considered.
Premier Doug Ford announced plans to release the figures on Thursday, a day after expressing reluctance to share speculative data in the midst of a fluid situation.
In announcing the change of approach and warning residents the analysis could be hard to hear, Ford said the figures could serve as a wake-up call for those who had yet to heed public health advice about slowing the spread of the virus.
"The truth is the situation is extremely, extremely serious," Ford said. "Right now our best defence is to stay home, self-isolate and don't go out. It is a matter of life and death."
Ford said the public had the right to access the most complete and up-to-date information in order to make sound health decisions for themselves and their loved ones.
The number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Ontario continued their upward trajectory on Friday, though those figures were eclipsed by the surge in cases that are now considered resolved.
The province reported 462 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 3,255. Deaths climbed by 14 for a total of 67 provincewide.
Those figures did not include four new deaths at a central Ontario nursing home, the scene of one of the largest outbreaks in the country.
Twenty of the roughly 65 residents of Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died in recent weeks. At least 24 staff members at the facility have also tested positive for COVID-19.
The province has reported numerous outbreaks at long-term care facilities across Ontario.
But the number of resolved cases also surged significantly, climbing more than 30 per cent to 1,023 from 831 on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.
Michelle McQuigge and Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press