October 31, 2020 – Update on COVID-19 from Dr. Theresa Tam

Dr. Theresa Tam

“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 first cases were reported in March 2020, there have been 231,999 cases of COVID-19, including 10,110 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though the cumulative number is high and continues to increase, 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 that will keep ourselves, our families and our communities safer.

At this time, there are 27,952 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 2,771 new cases (Oct 23-29) and close to 75,000 people tested, with 3.1% testing positive (Oct 11-17). Outbreaks continue to contribute to COVID-19 spread in Canada. These vary in size from just a few cases to larger clusters occurring in a range of settings including long-term care and assisted living facilities, schools, congregate living settings, industrial work settings and large social gatherings. Larger clusters tell us that closed and crowded settings and/or not sufficiently maintaining public health practises, such as physical distancing and mask wearing, can amplify spread of the virus.

The number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase. Provincial and territorial data, indicate that an average of 1,107 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Oct 23-29), including 227 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 30 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily.

As hospitalisations and deaths tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, the concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity. As well, influenza and respiratory infections typically increase during the Fall and Winter, placing increased demands on hospitals. This is why it is so important for people of all ages to maintain public health practises that keep respiratory infection rates low.

Canada needs a collective effort to sustain the public health response through to the end of the pandemic, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences. To essential workers – from those growing our food and keeping grocery stores stocked with vital supplies to the healthcare and public health workforce providing care and services to Canadians – thank you for your commitment to keeping our society running.  Many of you have been on the frontlines since the beginning, putting yourselves in harms way.  As individuals, we have an important role to play to minimize the COVID-19 burden on essential workers.  This means keeping our number of in-person close contacts low and committing to proven effective public health practises; stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask as appropriate, and keep up with hand, cough and surface hygiene. Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practises and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

And finally, even though this Halloween may look a bit different, I encourage you to follow local public health recommendations on how to have a safe and fun celebration.

Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others.”