Hospitals still flooding with coronavirus patients despite new year, experts warn

Patients in multiple Canadian hotspots are flooding hospitals at an alarming rate and expected to arrive in even greater numbers in the weeks to come, doctors and health centres said Friday.

“If these rates of increase continue the way they are, the months of January and February are absolutely going to be brutal. It’s just a question of how brutal will it be,” said Anthony Dale, head of the Ontario Hospital Association.

One-fifth of the province’s intensive care capacity is now devoted to COVID-19 patients, with Toronto and the regions of Peel, York, and Windsor-Essex hardest hit.

Hospitals in the greater Montreal area are on track to exceed capacity within the next three weeks, with almost two-thirds of beds designated for coronavirus patients already occupied, according to a report from INESSS, a government-funded health institute.

“Unfortunately, if the trend continues, this will have to be compensated in particular by the additional shedding of non-COVID treatments in our hospitals,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Thursday in a Twitter post in French.

The country’s not in the clear yet.

Individuals need to make sensible choices around social distancing and staying home, said Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Public Health.

“We’re still seeing knucklehead parties from seven to 14 to 25 people, raving out there with no masks, lots of booze and drinking and hugging and kissing and so on,” Sly said. “That’s avoidable.”

Public officials are not above making dubious travel choices, with several prominent politicians taking heat for holiday travel despite public-health guidelines to stay home.

On Friday evening, the federal NDP released a statement saying that MP Niki Ashton travelled to Greece to see an ill family member, and would consequently be relieved of her shadow cabinet roles, which include transportation.