December 12, 2020 – Update from Dr. Theresa Tam on COVID-19

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Dr. Theresa Tam

OTTAWA – 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 448,841 cases of COVID-19, including 13,251 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 many areas continue to experience rapid growth, 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 73,297 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,543 new cases (Dec 4-10). 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. This continued impact on high risk individuals, settings and populations is deeply concerning, putting countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, causing significant disruption to health services and presenting ongoing challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.

The number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase across Canada. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 2,900 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 4-10), including 565 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 100 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. This situation is placing a heavy strain on 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 and wait times.

Knowing access to safe and effective vaccines for all Canadians is within sight might lead some to think COVID-19 is no longer a problem, but the reality is very different. Nationally, we remain in a rapid growth trajectory. The latest longer range forecasting, using a model from Simon Fraser University, forecasts that we could have 12,000 cases daily by the beginning of January. We can change this. When public health authorities and individuals work together to implement and adhere to more stringent controls, we can bend the curve. This remains as important as ever, even as we roll out the initial limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine across the country. Canadians are urged to continue with individual practices that keep us and our families safer, while protecting populations and communities at high risk for severe outcomes.

To do this, we need to continue to limit close contacts to only those in our immediate household and reduce in-person interactions to only essential errands and activities, while consistently maintaining key public health practices: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask as appropriate (including indoors with people from outside your immediate household), and keep up with frequent hand, cough and surfacehygiene. Avoid the three C’s as much as possible: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places where many people gather, and close contact situations where you cannot keep two metres apart. Importantly, please follow the guidance of your local public health authorities.

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.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada