TORONTO -- Ontario health officials say the wave of new community spread cases of COVID-19 in the province appears to have peaked, but the spread in long-term care homes and other congregate settings seems to be growing.

The news comes as Ontario’s COVID-19 command table releases new modelling and potential scenarios in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus.

“While earlier models predicted a peak in cases in May, public health interventions, including widespread adherence to physical distancing, have accelerated the peak to now,” the modelling report said.

The announcement comes after the province recorded the most cases of COVID-19 in a single day.

Projections released earlier this month painted a dark picture for the province. Health officials forecasted that between 3,000 and 15,000 people in the province could die from COVID-19 with the health measure that were already in place. In a worst-case scenario, the province said that as many as 100,000 people could die without any public health measures in place.

While the modelling data released Monday does not indicate how many people could die as a result of COVID-19, it does shed light on the number of cases that could be reported in the province.

Health officials say that the total number of cumulative cases for the span of the outbreak is now likely less than 20,000, a far cry from the 300,000 possible cases the province had projected it would see by the end of the month in a worst-case scenario.

The previous modelling data had predicted a peak in cases in May, but officials say that thanks to public health measures, including physical distancing and self-isolating, the peak has been accelerated to today.

“Peak is important because epidemics follow what’s called Farr’s Law, which means that they essentially have a symmetrical shape and so as you come up, you peak, and then hopefully cases diminish on the other side,” Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said at a news conference on Monday afternoon.

“Peaks are not a single day, peaks are not a nice single spike. They can be a little bit bumpy, they can prolong for a period of time, particularly given public health interventions. But we’re in that peak period right now."

Brown said that while his team expects that the mortality rate from community-based transmission is coming down, it is hard to forecast the number of deaths in long-term care homes as they are currently within an “accelerating upswing of the curve.”

As of Monday, there are 114 outbreaks at long-term care homes across Ontario, representing the deaths of 249 residents and one staff member.

Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the province’s plan to “fortify a ring” around such facilities, which includes stricter testing and screening measures in homes facing outbreaks as well as an emergency order that limits staff to working at one facility. That order goes into effect Wednesday.  

Projections on COVID-19 patients in hospital

Based on data collected from both South Korea and Italy, Ontario health officials developed a best-case and worst-case scenario, respectively, for how many patients with COVID-19 they expect to see in an intensive care unit.

Ontario would see roughly 400 patients in the ICU on April 19 in a best-case scenario and over 1,000 in a worst-case scenario. Currently, there are 247 being treated in the ICU for COVID-19.

In terms of overall hospital capacity, the province says that in a worst-case scenario they could see roughly 1,500 patients hospitalized by April 19, and just over 500 patients hospitalized in the best-case scenario. As of Monday morning, there are 809 patients in hospital in Ontario.

Despite the positive trend laid out in the data, last week the government decided to add more than 2,500 acute and critical care beds to their hospitals ahead of a potential surge in COVID-19 cases.

DataOn potentially easing public health measures

Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe was asked about potentially lifting public health measures following Monday’s report to which she said that any such actions would be made gradually.

“When we do start to lift some of the measures, it will not be a light switch,” Yaffe said. “It will be very gradual and we will have to measure the impact of each change as we make it and make sure we’re not seeing more infection once we lift it.”

‘”Once we lift it, it will be very hard to go back.”

Ford echoed Yaffe’s cautious optimism by saying that while the numbers are encouraging, Ontarians are “not out of the woods yet.”

“Far from it. We are still in the middle of a battle.”

However, Ford did note the progress in Ontario’s fight against COVID-19 saying that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I am so proud,” he said. “We should all be proud that as a province we stepped up. We faced this enemy head on.” 

“We listened to the experts and thanks to our collective efforts, thanks to all of you, we have since avoided the worst-case scenario we have been dreading.”

The City of Toronto is set to release its own COVID-19 modelling report later today.