Thank you for inviting me today to present. I thought I'd start off by just giving you a sense of where we are in Ontario at this time. Since we've been at this now since January 2020, it's day 320 since we had the first case reported in Canada. We have now had a total of 134,783 cases of COVID-19 reported.
Over the spring and into the summer we flattened the curve down to a very low fewer than 100 cases a day, even lower than that, and then they started rising again in September, much as in other provinces, and more recently as in some territories.
Today, on December 10, for example, the numbers keep changing and we have a record high of 1,983 new cases of COVID-19 reported in a single day. Our testing volumes remain high. Today again we did just over 62,000 tests for the day. We continue to be averaging between mid-55,000 and 58,000 tests a day at this time, and we're adding more testing with more rapid access testing components in there. We're also doing some of those, in the 3,000 to 4,000 range, and we're going to be adding more in the near future.
Most of our cases tend to be concentrated in our so-called hot zones in the areas of Toronto, York and Peel, which make up 60% of our cases. They are spread out throughout the health units in the province of Ontario, which I will talk about in a moment.
Long-term care and overall mortality continue to increase. As we see our cases, we have a lag of three weeks and then we start to see hospitalizations and start to see deaths rising. We continue to note that. Now we're thinking we could exceed 25 deaths a day. While this is lower than in the first wave, it is nevertheless an ongoing concern and most unfortunate.
The reproduction effect, or the “RE”, that we talk about, is fluctuating just around 1. We're hoping to get that down below 1, to see it start diminishing again to see if we can come down off the peak of the second wave. We're sort of on a high plateau in a precarious state waiting to see if we're going to go back up or come down again.
Our ICU capacity and our hospital capacity continue to be challenged. We have over 200 beds now occupied in intensive care with COVID patients out of our approximately 1,700 to 1,800 beds. The challenge there of course is that, unlike in the first wave, during which we had stopped all elective surgery, we have all our hospitals up and functioning full tilt. That means these beds are pushing in with other cases, including those with elective surgery who are in there for a day or two post-op and are requiring the beds. That is putting stress on our system, a lot of which is at over 90% occupancy. We remain in this precarious position, to which there are a number of aspects.
In order to deal with this in the uniqueness of Ontario—and it probably affects the elections process—we, unlike other provinces, have 34 autonomous municipally incorporated public health units in Ontario. They range in size, with Toronto being the biggest at about 3.4 million, down to small ones of about 38,000 in the north. They cover all the geography in Ontario, including places where there are first nations communities. Each of the medical officers there, 34 of them and their staff, have the authority under boards of health to be responsible for the public health in their respective jurisdictions.
In order to assist with the overall impact of COVID, we moved, after our initial phase of closing and opening up, to putting in Ontario's “COVID-19 response framework: keeping Ontario safe and open”, which we initiated in September-October. It has indicators for each of the levels, with colour zones and names for them.
Green, the lowest, is in prevent mode and most of the things are on an ongoing prevention basis. Those remain low numbers, usually at less than 1%. Yellow is the protect level and has its own percentage parameters and cases per 100,000. Orange is the restrict level. Then we have red, the control level, which is anything above 40 per 100,000 or above 2.5% positivity in the lab tests coming in. This means we have 34 different areas in different colour zones, and they can move. We review the data weekly and then recommend if health units in those areas are moving up to these new zones or moving down. We also have grey, or lockdown, zones. Those are in effect at the moment in Toronto and in Peel.
That is when there are a number of metrics met that indicate that we have to put them into a lockdown mode, knowing that, unlike our first wave, they're not totally the same. Our long-term care is still allowing essential visitors. Our schools are still open, even at this date, up until Christmas. We have a large student body with 2.5 million students and most of our 1,400 schools are open. At the moment, we only have 10 closures in the province. Some of those are not due to outbreaks, but due to administrative reasons where, with staffing situations, they have had to close. There are child care centres as well.
Another difference from wave one is that we haven't stopped elective surgery. We are trying to catch up on that to make sure people are not having increased morbidity or mortality due to the delay in essential investigative and operative procedures. That's how we're structured and that's how we're dealing with it right now.
Also, we're doing some modelling and projecting to see how we will fare as we go through. Then, of course—as you've heard in the news—we are starting into the early stages of vaccination and that process is carrying forward. We're hoping to keep ramping that up into the new year.
In terms of the opportunities or issues related to conducting elections in Ontario, my office has been involved with the discussions with Elections Ontario. We are advising. There's an opportunity to learn from experience. It will be important to document and share these at the federal, provincial and territorial levels.
Ontario supports the committee's acknowledgement that the administration of an election should be executed without creating further barriers to voting, especially in consideration of providing every individual who is legally able to vote with the opportunity to vote, regardless of accessibility needs. That means using assistive voting technology and other types of assistance at the voting location—depending on zones within Ontario and COVID-19 status—and place of residence, such as correctional facilities, long-term care, group homes and other congregate settings.
There is a need to ensure that the election administration plans include contingencies and can be readily adapted to be sufficiently nimble in processes to respond to the changing situation in each jurisdiction. Because this is an ongoing COVID outbreak, it is changing by the day and week. With vaccinations coming in, we'll have further impacts that we're going to have to take into consideration as we continue on this journey. We have to be nimble and deal with the issues as they arise and be responsive.
Some of the overarching challenges include harnessing up front the opportunities for minimizing travel and gatherings, especially in consideration of using mail-in or virtual voting, actual day of voting on weekends or work weeks, and variations in public health measures that are in place in our communities, such as access to large community centres. Settings in lockdown are limited, so how might we have to modify those to allow people to come into buildings at certain times and allow proper space in the lines as well as proper precautions in each of the locations for the administration staff, volunteers, scrutineers and candidates? We need to establish linkages with regional local authorities to support the election process, such as linking in with our health and education sectors primarily.
We want to establish consistent and tailored processes for voting locations. Are they in schools? Remember that our schools are in a certain status situation. We don't allow people into the schools at the moment because of our policies and directions there. The community centres are mostly closed. They could be open, but they have to be established in that line. Also, there are specific processes for long-term care and other types of congregate facilities.
Other considerations might be the processes in place to screen those who are entering a polling station and separating electors who are unmasked or screened positive. How do we do that? If someone is positive and they're in their quarantine period, can they vote or not vote? How would we handle that type of process? Capacity limits and traffic flow need to be established. Of course, there's the ongoing cleaning and disinfecting protocols for all surfaces and equipment.
We would also like to recommend that a comprehensive training program include dry runs through the various scenarios and establishing worker screening processes that take into account the locations of their work the day of the elections, including any movement between locations and mobile voting processes. We don't want people moving from our high lockdown zones into red zones or others. We'd like them to be in that type of setting and to stay in those locations. They're planning ahead where their movements might be and minimizing them, so if there were outbreaks, they would not be attributed to the workers.
That would ensure consistent worker protection across all the voting locations, whether in the different settings we've talked about already, or our varying levels of interactions of electors. Overall these are the general parameters. As I've noted, Ontario is a big province. We have many remote first nations communities and challenges with accessing them. We have a large geography as well as the largest population to work through. We have to work that into our various settings and locations. We hope we can assist and work, if and when that is necessary, in response to the changing COVID situation we continue to experience.
Thank you, Madam Chair.