Statement from Dr. Theresa Tam
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer
As the resurgence of COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to maintain COVID-19 at manageable levels across the country.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 495,346 cases of COVID-19, including 14,040 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though many areas continue to experience high infection rates, it is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. This is why it is important for everyone to continue with individual precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
At this time, there are 75,695 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,653 new cases (Dec 11-17). COVID-19 is spreading among people of all ages, with high infection rates across all age groups. However, nationally, infection rates remain highest among those aged 80 years and older who are at highest risk for severe outcomes.
Likewise, outbreaks continue to occur in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country. The downstream impacts of weeks and months of elevated disease activity continues to be seen in still rising numbers of severe illness and death, significant disruptions to health services and ongoing challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.
Nationally, hospitalizations and deaths, which tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks are still increasing. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,194 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 11-17), including 650 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 115 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. This situation continues to burden local healthcare resources, particularly in areas where infection rates are highest. These impacts affect everyone, as the healthcare workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs.
This week, we welcomed more exciting news on the vaccine front, from the first Canadians being vaccinated against COVID-19 to the prospect of early delivery of doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, pending regulatory approval assuring quality, safety and effectiveness.
Even as we move into this hopeful next chapter of Canada’s COVID-19 response, our collective efforts to bend the curve remain crucial to our success. The latest longer range forecasting, using a model from Simon Fraser University, forecasts that we could have over 8,000 cases daily by the beginning of January 2021. While lower than last week, these numbers are still significant and put us on a trajectory for a strong resurgence for the next two months. This underscores that the partnership between public health and the public at large is still vitally important to bringing down the infection rate. Our continued efforts are not only helping public health authorities to quickly interrupt chains of transmission, they also assist the broader health workforce to plan for and rollout out one of the most complex immunization campaigns in Canada’s history
While we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines, Canadians are urged to continue with individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, follow local public health advice and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including when you cannot consistently keep two metres apart from people outside your immediate household).
Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to break the cycle of infection and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others.