Federal officials say action 'urgently needed' as COVID-19 cases rise, holidays begin
Canadians urged to limit contacts as caseloads rise rapidly
Public health officials are urging Canadians to dramatically limit their contacts with other people as the country continues on a "rapid growth trajectory" for COVID-19 cases and the holiday season begins.
This week's approval of a COVID-19 vaccine has led to a groundswell of public optimism — but public health officials are warning the pandemic is a long way from over. Releasing new modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) today, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that if Canadians maintain their current contact levels, more than 12,000 new cases will be recorded daily by January.
If people increase their level of contacts, however, that number could surge to more than 30,000 cases daily by January, according to the modelling sheets.
PHAC modelling suggests combined efforts are "urgently needed" to bend the curve as outbreaks continue in long-term care facilities and First Nation communities, putting a strain on hospitals and regional health care systems.
Tam told a media briefing in Ottawa that only one per cent of Canadians have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which means most Canadians remain vulnerable to infection.
3 weeks, 100K new cases
About 100,000 new cases have been reported across the country in just the last three weeks, with growth being driven primarily by the six provinces west of the Atlantic region. In recent weeks, each of these provinces has recorded its highest daily case count, and several also have seen their highest daily number of deaths to date.
"We have yet to see the kind of sustained decline in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control," Tam said.
WATCH / Dr. Tam on impact of COVID-19 on health system
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Canada is entering a tricky season, when people traditionally take a break from work to spend time with family. Despite the positive news on the vaccine front, she urged Canadians to be vigilant in practising public health guidelines because a "very clear danger" remains.
"We're going to have to be very, very cautious over the next several weeks to protect those people who are counting on us to work together," she said.
Hajdu urges collaboration
Asked if the government should impose more restrictive measures to stem the disastrous rise in cases, Hajdu said the best approach is for the federal government to collaborate with the provinces.
"Yes, it is a tragedy, I completely agree with you, that cases are rising," she said. "They are rising globally. There are very few countries that are not seeing growth right now. But I will tell you this — I believe it's that effort of partnership, that we-will-do-whatever-it-takes attitude, that will get our country through this."
Short-term projections suggest there could be up to 577,000 cases and 14,920 deaths by Dec. 25.
As of Friday morning, Canadian public health officials were reporting a total of 443,922 cases and 13,154 deaths.
Today's projections are particularly grim for First Nations, where the number of active cases has doubled in the last month. The current number of active cases is more than 20 times higher than the peak number during the first wave of the pandemic for First Nations on reserve.