'I will be like an 800-pound gorilla on their backs,' Ontario premier warns as COVID-19 testing falls short
TORONTO -- As the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day in Ontario climbed back up to above 400 on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford warned health officials he “will be like an 800-pound gorilla on their backs” if testing numbers continue to fall below what is expected.
“Am I frustrated? Yes, I’m frustrated, but I have confidence in the team,” Ford said at his daily news conference held on Thursday afternoon at Queen’s Park. “They are working hard, they are doing everything they can. We will hit those numbers and I will be like an 800-pound gorilla on their backs every single day if I have to until I see these numbers go up.”
“It’s all hands on deck.”
Provincial health officials confirmed 413 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 31 more deaths on Thursday morning, bringing the total number of patients in Ontario to 24,187, including 1,993 deaths and 18,509 recoveries.
According to Thursday’s epidemiologic summary, eight of Ontario’s deceased COVID-19 patients were between the ages of 20 and 39. There have been no deaths recorded in people 19 years of age or younger. Eighty of all deceased patients in the province were between the ages of 40 and 59 and 515 people were between the ages of 60 and 79. People 80 years of age or older continue to be the hardest hit age group with 1,390 deaths.
There are currently 984 people infected with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals. Of those patients, 155 of them are being treated in the intensive care unit.
According to the province, there have been 287 outbreaks of the disease at long-term care homes, 117 outbreaks at retirement homes and 78 outbreaks at hospitals.
In Ontario, 4,178 health-care workers have become infected with COVID-19.
After 10 days of daily case counts being below 400 in Ontario, health officials confirmed 427 new cases of the disease on Tuesday. The number of new patients logged on Wednesday then dipped down to 390.
- DAILY BREAKDOWN: Tracking all of Ontario's COVID-19 cases
Speaking alongside Ford at Thursday’s news conference, Minister of Health Christine Elliott responded to this increase, saying that officials are “looking at where the new cases are coming from.”
“The chief medical officer of health has acknowledged that there has been a slight increase in the number of cases, but he is still satisfied that overall we are on a downward trend – that’s the most important thing in all of this,” she said.
“What we need to see is that gradual downward trend. It’s not going to be as if it’s all of a sudden going to take a dive and we’re going to be down to 200, it’s going to be a slow incremental path and all things considered, Dr. Williams is of the view that is where we are headed and we are taking our cues from him.”
Ontario establishing plan amid low testing numbers
Meanwhile, at Thursday’s news conference, along with the increase in new COVID-19 cases, Ford expressed frustration toward the low number of tests being conducted in recent days.
Across the province, thus far, 577, 682 novel coronavirus tests have been conducted.
Ontario conducted 10,506 tests in the last-recorded 24-hour period. That number is up compared to 7,382 tests conducted on Tuesday and 5,813 tests conducted on Monday, but down significantly compared to the province’s goal set out earlier in the pandemic – hitting 20,000 tests per day.
“As sure as I am standing here, we are going to ramp it up,” Ford said on Thursday afternoon. “Can I give you an exact date? I can’t. I’m pushing the table as hard as I can. Is it frustrating? It’s frustrating, believe me it’s frustrating – but, in saying that, I do have confidence in Ontario and with public health.”
“To tell you I’m pushing them is an understatement. We will get there.”
Ford went on to state that officials are working on “coming up with a plan” that will be laid out “hopefully sooner rather than later” to himself and Elliott.
“This is what we have to do,” he said. “We can’t just be testing people with symptoms, we have to start going to the broader public and start testing as many people as possible, asymptotic people, and until we do that – and I’m not medical expert, I’ve said it a thousand times – but, until we do that we can’t get our hands around the whole system.”
“How do we know how many asymptotic people are out there right now? But if we keep testing and tracing and testing and tracing we’re going to get it done.”
There are currently 5,051 test samples under investigation in Ontario.
Quick facts on all confirmed COVID-19 patients in Ontario:
- 42.5 per cent of all patients in the province are male and 56.8 per cent are female – 173 cases did not specify male or female gender
- 42 per cent of all patients are 60 years of age or older – 13 cases did not specify their age
- 2.9 per cent of all patients are 19 years of age or younger
- 24.6 per cent of all patients are between the ages of 20 and 39
- 30.4 per cent of all patients are between the ages of 40 and 59
- 21 per cent of all patients are between the ages of 60 and 79
- 21 per cent of all patients are 80 years of age or older
- Public health units in the Greater Toronto Area account for 63.6 per cent of all cases
- 6.4 per cent of all patients had travelled in the 14 days prior to becoming ill
- 24.9 per cent of all patients had close contact with a previously confirmed case
- 34.8 per cent of all patients had community exposure
- 33.9 per cent of all patients had exposure information listed as pending