Premier Doug Ford is raising concerns about the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in people in their 20s and 30s, saying that some young people appear to no longer be following public health advice and are instead “going hog wild.”
There has been a steady increase in the proportion of new cases involving people between the ages of 20 and 39 ever since the province began to slowly permit more businesses to open up.
Over the last week the group has accounted for an average of 68 new cases per day, representing nearly half of the infections reported by the province over that time period.
That marks a significant increase in the proportion of cases involving people in their 20s and 30, who at this point last month had only accounted for 28 per cent of all cases.
During a press conference in Mississauga on Tuesday afternoon, Ford was asked about the higher levels of infection being seen in young people and conceded that it is a concern, especially as more regions in Ontario prepare to enter Stage 3 on Friday.
Under Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan bars and restaurants could only serve patrons on patios but Stage 3 will allow for the resumption of indoor service, which most public health experts agree carries a higher risk of transmission.
Stage 3 also permits indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, which raises the possibility of house parties and other larger social events.
“We have the brightest, smartest people coming out of our colleges and universities and the vast majority, 98 per cent them are following all the protocols (and) procedures but a couple per cent are going hog wild,” Ford said on Tuesday. “Guys you have to rein it in. It is as simple as that. Because again you may get through it (COVID-19) but maybe your grandparents won’t get through it. So that's the way you got to think about it.”
Officials in other jurisdictions, including Montreal, have already expressed concerns about a number of clusters of infections tied to the reopening of bars.
Those same concerns have also prompted Toronto officials to look into additional rules for when the city eventually gets the green light to go to Stage 3, such as early closing times.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Ford said that his government has spent more money on advertising and educational campaigns than any other government “in the history of Ontario” and that at some point it is up to residents to listen.
He said that while most have done just that, there are “some bad apples” who need to take note, unless they want to see a repeat of the more restrictive measures that had to be put in place earlier in the pandemic.
“Just don’t go to a party. Simple. You are hurting people by doing this,” he said. “Go back to the golden rule. Wear a mask and if you don’t have a mask keep two metres. I just ask people to hold off on these parties. I don’t know why everyone wants to party so badly but enough.”
85 more cases on Tuesday
While people in their 20s and 30s make up a disproportionate share of new COVID-19 cases, they tend to have better outcomes with only 11 of them dying after contracting the virus so far.
That is compared to 1,891 deaths in people ages 80 and up.
Speaking with CP24 earlier in the day, infectious disease expert Dr. Issac Bogoch said that while it is true that people in the demographic are less likely to end up hospitalized with COVID-19, they can still spread the virus to others who will.
He said that for that reason the increasing levels of infection among the group is “very problematic” and needs to be addressed.
“We know that if these individuals get infected by and large they are not going to have a serious outcome, they are going to have a more mild illness but that is not the point. No one is an island and these people can also infect other people in the community. They can infect elderly parents and elderly grandparents who are less likely to have an easier course with the virus,” he warned. “So this is a problem and it something that is probably going to acquire pretty focal public health interventions that are really geared towards that age group.”
On Tuesday, Ontario reported another 85 cases in people between the ages of 20 and 39.
There were also another 31 cases in people ages 19 and under. The two groups combined accounted or 57 per cent of all the new cases in the province.