Chief Medical Officer of Health Says “Crucial that strong measures are kept in place in order”

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Dr. Theresa Tam
Dr. Theresa Tam

Healthcare System Still Under Threat

OTTAWA – As 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 770,793 cases of COVID-19, including 19,801 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 55,313 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate a downward trend in daily case counts, with a 7-day average of 4,896 new cases daily (Jan 22-28). While these surveillance data and modelling forecasts suggest that community-based measures are having an effect, it is crucial that strong measures are kept in place in order to maintain a steady downward trend. With still elevated daily case counts and high rates of infection across all age groups, the risk remains that trends could reverse quickly and some areas of the country are seeing increased activity. 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. These factors underscore the importance of sustaining public health measures and individual practices and not easing restrictions too fast or too soon. This is particularly important in light of the emergence of new virus variants of concern that could rapidly accelerate transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.

Heavy Impacts Ongoing in Healthcare Sector

As severe outcomes lag behind increased disease activity, we can expect to see ongoing heavy impacts on our healthcare system and health workforce for some time to come. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,192 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Jan 22-28), including 855 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 149 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.

From health workers and public safety personnel, to teachers and workers in the food sector, essential workers across a wide range of industries have and continue to be on the frontlines keeping our society running and keeping us safe. The pandemic has shone a light on their dedication, teamwork, and resilience in the face of adversity.

However, essential workers — who are themselves mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — are at risk of psychological distress, burnout and other challenges to their mental health and wellbeing, as they serve their communities while balancing the same complex challenges as all Canadians.

They may be having reactions and challenges to their mental health, which are normal under these unprecedented circumstances. One of the most powerful ways we can continue to honour and support essential workers, is by following local public health advice to the very best of our ability. By limiting our activities and outings to just the essentials and consistently maintaining individual practices, including physical distancinghand, cough and surface hygiene, and wearing a mask as appropriate, we have the power to slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep essential workers and our community safer.

Through Wellness Together Canada, Canadians of all ages across the country can access free supports, information and practical tools to feeling better, self-guided programs, peer-to-peer support and confidential sessions with social workers, psychologists and other professionals. Supports are provided online as well as by phone and text for those without internet access. There are also immediate supports:

  • Adults: Text WELLNESS to 741741
  • Youth: Text WELLNESS to 686868
  • Front Line Workers: Text FRONTLINE to 741741

Indigenous Peoples can also contact the toll-free Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or the online chat at hopeforwellness.ca open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For longer-term care, contact a First Nations and Inuit Health Regional Office.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, help is available 24/7. Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566. In Quebec, call Apelle at 1-866-277-3553.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency line.