Update on COVID-19 from Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Medical Officer of Health

Dr. Theresa Tam
Dr. Theresa Tam

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 797,756 cases of COVID-19, including 20,609 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.

From routine national surveillance data, we continue to observe hopeful signs of declining COVID-19 activity. At this time, there are 46,417 active cases across the country. Likewise, the latest national-level data indicate a continued downward trend in daily case counts, with a 7-day average of 3,947 new cases daily (Jan 29-Feb 4) and 107,609 tests daily, with 4.2% positive for COVID-19 (Jan 24-30). Following the recent decrease in COVID-19 activity, we remain on a gradual decline in severe outcomes as expected with these lagging indicators. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,633 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Jan 29-Feb 4), including 736 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 121 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. Despite this recent decline, this situation continues to burden local healthcare resources, particularly in areas where infection rates are highest.

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, particularly in areas of the country that are reporting increased, unchanged or only modest declines in COVID-19 disease 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. A range of public health measures and restrictions are already in place across Canada as we continue our collective effort to interrupt the spread of the virus. Canadians are urged to continue following local public health advice and to consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household).

The past weeks of our collective sacrifice has made a difference, reducing illnesses, saving lives, taking the pressure off our healthcare workforce and building out a longer runway for vaccine access to expand and begin to work for all Canadians. This weekend, as many Canadians will be watching and rooting for their favourite Super Bowl team, we still need to maintain a strong defensive front against COVID-19, which means limiting in-person contacts to our immediate household. As we’ve done before, with a little planning and creativity we can still connect with others virtually to celebrate and cheer together, while committing to everyone’s safety. This year let’s enjoy the Super Bowl, without risk of superspreading!

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, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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