December 24, 2020 – COVID-19 Update with Dr. Theresa Tam

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Daily Update with Dr. Theresa Tam
Daily Update with 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. We are actively monitoring the new variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa. We are conducting ongoing analysis of genomic databases in Canada and have no evidence of these variants in Canada to-date. The Government of Canada has had robust travel restrictions and border measures in place since March 2020, including mandatory quarantine measures. In light of new variants, we are further enhancing screening and scrutiny of quarantine plans for inbound passengers. We continue to advise against non-essential travel to other countries and are advising extra caution if you must travel to the United Kingdom or South Africa.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 528,354 cases of COVID-19, including 14,597 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 75,305 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,675 new cases (Dec 17-23). 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, correctional facilities, 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, hospitalisations 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 3,392 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 17-23), including 682 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 114 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.

As we head into the holiday season, I would like to wish all Canadians safe and healthy celebrations. With a bit of creativity and planning, we can still maintain our important traditions and social connections while keeping our family and friends safe. We must do everything we can to celebrate safely so that we can head into the new year in the best possible position. There are many examples across the country of ways to celebrate important occasions more safely this winter, from virtual game nights, concerts, and religious services to connect safely with others as we stay in our cozy households, to community walkabouts, drive-thru holiday displays to enjoy the outdoors safely. Make the most of our winter wonderland by considering outdoor activities, bundling up on layers of winter gear and layers of individual public health practices.

I am hopeful as I look ahead to 2021. Yesterday, Health Canada authorized Canada’s second COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna, after a thorough, independent review of the evidence for safety, efficacy, and quality requirements for use in Canada. This was followed by the release of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)’s recommendations on the use of this vaccine. It is important to remember, however, that initial vaccine supplies will remain limited as vaccine rollout continues in Canada and we must not forget that infection rates remain very high in many parts of the country. 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 can not 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.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada