Monday marks 100 days since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Ontario. From that moment, the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 240,000 people worldwide, has drastically changed the way we live.
Here is a look at how the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded in Ontario so far:
First COVID-19 case
A man in his 50s who travelled to Wuhan, which was the epicentre of the epidemic at that time, was admitted to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Jan. 23 with fever and respiratory symptoms. Public Health Ontario confirmed on Jan. 25 that the man tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first case of the novel coronavirus in Canada. The man’s wife also contracted the virus and was the second COVID-19 case in the province.
First death in Canada
The first COVID-19 death in Canada was reported in British Columbia on Mar. 11. A man in his 80s, who resided at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, died of the virus. There were 69 confirmed cases of the virus at that time.
WHO classifies virus as pandemic
The World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic after concerns on “the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
First death in Ontario
On Mar. 17, Ontario health officials confirmed the province’s first COVID-19 death. A 77-year-old man from Barrie, Ont., died from the virus on March 11. The man was a close contact of a positive case and tested positive for the virus after his death.
Ontario, Toronto declare state of emergency
Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency on Mar. 17, noting that Ontario is facing and “unprecedented time in its history” and must “act decisively” to stop the spread of the virus.
Ford also issued orders to close non-essential workplaces, recreational programs, libraries, publicly funded schools, private schools, daycares, provincial parks, churches and other faith settings, as well as bars and restaurants that don’t offer takeout or delivery.
The state of emergency has been extended until May 12.
Mayor John Tory declared a state of emergency – the first in the city’s history – on Mar. 23. The mayor said the declaration “ensure the municipal government can continue to act and respond quickly to the pandemic and any other events that arise in the weeks ahead.”
On April 30, Toronto City Council voted to extend Tory’s emergency powers, as well as the physical distancing bylaws.
Physical distancing and use of masks to fight virus
Officials have been touting physical distancing as an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is keeping a distance of at least two metres from others, as much as possible, and limiting activities outside the home.
Ontario prohibited the gathering of no more than five people in late March to encourage people to stay home. The City of Toronto also introduced bylaws to ensure physical distancing is being observed in parks and park amenities.
There have been discussions about the effectiveness of masks to prevent someone from contracting the virus. On April 6, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam, who was previously reluctant to recommend the use of masks, said Canadians could use non-medical masks to limit the transmission of the deadly virus.
However, Tam said the masks won’t protect the person wearing it from contracting COVID-19. Wearing masks or face covering is also recommended where physical distancing is difficult to do.
Ontario lagged behind all other provinces in the number of tests administered per 100,000 people for much of late March and early April.
Public health doctors had said ramping up testing would lead to a massive backlog in processing tests, and it would create a shortage of swabs and reagent, the chemical solution that is used with testing kits.
The low testing rate in Ontario prompted Ford to vow the expansion of testing to ‘everyone possible.’
Despite the improvement in testing, the province is still way behind its desired goal of 19,000 tests per day.
Since mid-April, Ontario is averaging 11,000 completed tests per day.
On Sunday, the number of COVID-19 tests reached a new high of 17,146.
Provincial and city officials confirmed mid-March that there was community transmission of COVID-19 in Ontario. Before then, most cases were from travel or close contact.
Late April, officials said they were seeing a decline of cases acquired through community transmission, saying it is a sign that Ontario is flattening the curve.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, previously said the province needs to see fewer than 200 cases by community transmission in the next few weeks before officials make a decision on relaxing public health measures.
Ontario released its first projections on April 3, predicting that between 3,000 and 15,000 people in the province will die from COVID-19 with health measures that are already in place. Furthermore, with the current measures, 1,600 people will die from the virus by April 30.
A few weeks later, the province updated its projections indicating that Ontario is “trending better than the best-case scenario” that was detailed in modelling released by epidemiologists earlier. The new model is projecting there will be 20,000 cases during the first wave of the pandemic, down from both the 80,000 cases projected earlier.
On April 30, Ontario reported 1,082 deaths, which was less than the projected deaths in the first model.
Long-term care homes
COVID-19 has been known to disproportionately affect the elderly population, putting many in long-term care homes at risk. In Ontario, the Ministry of Long-Term care is reporting outbreaks in 170 facilities with 2,719 residents who have tested positive for the virus. Nearly 1,000 long-term care residents have died of the virus as of May 3, according to the ministry.
By late April, 50 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario were reported in long-term care facilities.
The Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed to five GTA long-term care facilities being ravaged by COVID-19. Of the five, Orchard Villa in Pickering has reported 58 COVID-19 fatalities.
Five Toronto long-term care facilities that have recorded more than 30 deaths include Altamont Care Community (41), Eatonville Care Centre (39), Seven Oaks (38), Isabel and Arthur Meighen Manor (34), and Mon Sheong Home for the Aged (31).
Forest Heights long-term care home in Kitchener has 35 coronavirus deaths.
Among the measures introduced by the province to fight the virus in homes include limiting staff to working at one facility, more aggressive testing and screening of staff and residents, and ordering staff and essential visitors to wear masks at all times for the duration of shifts or visits.
Health-care worker deaths
Four health-care workers have died of COVID-19. A long-time environmental services employee at Brampton Civic Health, a man in his 50s, died of COVID-19 on April 9. He was the first health-care worker in the province to die of the virus.
Since then, three more health-care workers, all personal support workers, have died of COVID-19. It prompted the union representing Ontario front-line workers to condemn the government’s lack of inaction to stop the spread of the virus in long-term care facilities.
More than 1,500 long-term care staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Pandemic pay for front-line workers
A number of front-line workers would receive a $4 an hour pay bump for the next 16 weeks, along with a monthly lump sum payment of $250, the province announced late April.
Ford said it was a way of saying thank you for all their important work during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the pandemic pay would help remove hiring obstacles for some facilities struggling with staff shortages.
Last week, the Ford government unveiled a three-phase plan for the gradual reopening of Ontario. The province later released sector-specific guidelines that businesses will need to follow to protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19.
On Monday, some businesses and workplaces are being allowed to resume operations. These include garden centres, automatic and self-serve car washes, car dealerships, and some essential construction projects.
Major festivals and events cancelled
The pandemic has resulted in the cancellations of events in the province. The City of Toronto has cancelled all festivals through June. The move includes the cancellation of the Pride Parade. Another major summer highlight, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, has been cancelled this year.
Last week, the city confirmed that all of its in-person Canada Day events, including fireworks displays, will be cancelled.
Toronto could lose at least $1.5 billion in revenue this year due to the pandemic. That’s the best-case scenario. If the lockdown continues over a nine-month period, the city the number could be as much as $2.7 billion.
Status of cases
Ontario has a total of 17,553 COVID-19 cases and 1,216 deaths. More than 12,000 of the cases have been resolved.
In Canada, nearly 60,000 people have tested positive for the virus, and 3,681 have died. The number of resolved cases in the country stands at 24,564.
— with files from CP24 and CTV Toronto staff, The Canadian Press