'Dark days ahead': Ontario premier warns little separates province from devastation in Italy and Spain
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford warns there will be a surge of COVID-19 cases, adding there are dark days ahead and there is very little separating the province from the devastation seen in Italy and Spain.
"We must not forget for one moment we’re facing a ruthless enemy," Ford said Wednesday while unveiling a $50 million fund to help businesses retool their operations to produce medical equipment and personal protective gear for front-line workers.
"A terrible virus is spreading around the world at an alarming rate … infecting people from all walks of life."
"The hard truth is, right now, today, there is very little separating what we will face here in Ontario from the devastation we’ve seen in Italy and Spain."
"Thousands of lives are at stake. The actions we take today, what we do as a government and as a people, will determine what we face tomorrow."
The government has based its recent self-distancing advice to Ontarians on provincial modelling, which has projected a "critical" situation over the next few weeks, with larger waves of patients ending up in hospitals and intensive care.
The province, however, has refused to share the data claiming that different models result in different outcomes which could lead to public panic.
"We're going to cause panic if we overestimate," Ford said. "The worst case scenario can get bad."
Canadian health officials have taken a different approach from their counterparts in the United States, who released dramatic predictions on the potential outcome of the pandemic.
U.S. President Donald Trump revealed White House COVID-19 projections, which showed between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die during the pandemic, even with the country's mitigation efforts.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario's models don't paint a complete picture because the province is still working to clear the backlog of corovanirus testing.
Once that happens, Elliott says, the government will be working with "current information" that will inform officials about whether the curve is being flattened.
Toronto city councilor Joe Cressy said municipal leaders base their decisions on provincial data and information they received this week convinced them that the city needed to act with "fierce urgency."
"If we collectively, in this government, don't take the strongest and strictest measures today, we will see an increase in deaths and the potential overwhelming in our health care sector," Cressy told CTV News Toronto.
Cressy said residents need to be "aware of the risks in front of them" if the city is expects them to self-isolate.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, promised to release a more fulsome picture in the days to come.
"We hope to have a report on some of the projections, perhaps by next week," Williams said during his daily briefing. "But, they keep changing and altering, depending on our data because in the modeling projections we're so early in the curve."
Ford calls on Ontario businesses to pitch in
Ford says the mass mobilization of government, businesses and people to slow the spread of COVID-19 is one of the most ambitious efforts undertaken by the province in generations.
The government says the Ontario Together Fund will go to the most viable, innovative proposals that can quickly provide medical supplies and equipment, including gowns, coveralls, face shields and ventilators.
The province has worked with the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association to get ventilators produced and Ontario recently ordered 10,000 of the machines from O-Two Medical Technologies.
"There is nothing we can't make here in Ontario," Ford said.
"We have an army, an army of 14.5 million people all across this great province. Hundreds of thousands of innovators who have the ability create the tools we need to fight the virus."
There are more than 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario and 37 deaths.
There are no specific treatments for the virus and there is no vaccine that protects against it.
Symptoms of the virus, which can include fever, cough and shortness of breath, are similar to other respiratory infections.
The Ontario government’s website advises those experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus to contact their primary health care provider or Telehealth Ontario.
With files from The Canadian Press.