Published Tuesday, March 30, 2021 7:56AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 30, 2021 1:56PM EDT
Speaking at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, Ford said he “won’t hesitate” to “lock things down” to protect ICU capacity as the number of intensive care patients with COVID-19 continues climbing closer to levels reached during the previous second-wave peak in January.
“I am extremely concerned with the situation we’re seeing and the numbers going up. I’m also very concerned about the age group, the younger people now, in ICUs,” Ford said on Tuesday.
“Everything’s on the table so folks, be prepared. I am asking you don’t make plans for Easter. That’s what I can tell you. I won’t hesitate to lock things down if we have to. I did it before, I will do it again. Nothing is more important than our health. The economy, yes, it’s important but that can wait. Without people’s health, we won’t have an economy.”
According to the latest data from Critical Care Services Ontario, there are now at least 410 people with COVID-19 receiving treatment in intensive care units across the province. For the past six consecutive days, more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Ontario.
Ford said any decision on further restrictions will be made on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
“Right off the hop, we’ll consult with the chief medical officer and obviously the science table, along with other local medical officers, we’ll get advice off them, and then cabinet will make a decision,” Ford said.
Ford’s comments less than 24 hours after Ontario’s science advisory table released a new report indicating that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario is 21 per cent higher than when the provicewide lockdown was implemented in December.
The report also found that the more transmissible variants of concern now make up about 67 per cent of all new COVID-19 cases and the variants are likely driving a rise in hospitalizations involving younger people.
According to the report, as of last week, people aged 59 or younger accounted for 46 per cent of all 157 new ICU admissions. The report also found that the variants present an increased risks for hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.
The rising case counts come as the Ford government has continued to ease restrictions in the province. Over the past few weeks, the province amended its reopening framework to increase indoor dining capacity in regions in the orange and red zones, and reopened patio dining in regions in the grey, or “lockdown,” zone of the tiered framework.
The province has also indicated that it will allow personal care services, including hair and nail salons, to reopen in regions in the grey zone on April 12.
When asked why he decided to ease restrictions this month as case counts continued to surge, Ford said the framework changes were done in consultation with Williams and local medical officers of health in the impacted regions.
“Every decision that I’ve ever made was through the advice through the chief medical officer,” Ford said Tuesday.
“We were hitting below 1,000 cases, things were looking a little rosy... but I won’t hesitate to lock things down until we can protect the ICU capacities at the hospitals.”