The spread of COVID-19 in Toronto is starting to slow down slightly, city officials said Thursday — but they added it’s far too soon to celebrate any sort of victory.
Toronto’s R number (or reproduction number), which represents the number of others a single infected person infects, now stands below one for the first time in months, said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Experts say the R number needs to be below one to slow the spread of the virus.
“Practically speaking, it means that we have a slight advantage over the virus,” de Villa said.
Toronto has also seen a decline in its seven-day average in cases, which now stands at 730 — down from 772 in the city’s last report.
That said, health officials need to see a consistent pattern of these sorts of indicators before they can call it a trend “with any kind of confidence,” de Villa said.
“It is very early going and a very delicate balance. The tide has not turned,” she said, adding that the city would want to see some “sustained trends” before any thought is made to easing health restrictions.
De Villa said the city is reporting 986 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, with 474 people in hospital and 474 people in intensive care.
Another 10 people have also died, de Villa said.
A stay-at-home order remains in place.
Health officials at the city’s news briefing also again drew attention to the fact that the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting racialized groups and people with lower incomes.
De Villa noted that as of Nov. 30, South Asian and Indo-Caribbean had the highest case rate of all ethno-racial groups in Toronto, making up 79 per cent of cases while comprising only 13 per cent of the population.
Overall, 79 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases were found in people who identified as belonging to a racialized group, while 49 per cent were found in people who live in lower-income households.
Racialized groups and people with lower incomes are similarly over-represented in hospitalization figures, de Villa said.
“So while COVID-19 is a threat to everyone, it is plainly imposing real and disproportionate burdens on racialized communities and lower income groups,” she said.