While new federal figures show the emergence of new cases of COVID-19 is slowing in some parts of Canada, the pandemic continues — and some regions and age groups are being hit particularly hard.
During a briefing in Ottawa this morning, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her colleague Dr. Howard Njoo walked Canadians through their updated modelling on the number of COVID-19-related illnesses and deaths Canada could see over the next few weeks.
The new figures show that Canada could see between 97,990 and 107,454 cases and between 7,700 and 9,400 deaths by June 15.
“Canada has made significant progress to bring the epidemic under control thanks to the commitment of Canadians who are following public health advice to protect themselves and others,” said Tam.
“Until there is a vaccine or effective treatment we must carefully balance the risks associated with spread of COVID-19 with the unintended social and health consequences of restrictive public health measures.”
The report highlights how different provinces are experiencing the pandemic.
Ontario and Quebec have accounted for more than 90 per cent of national COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days, according to Tam and Njoo.
There has been no community transmission in Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and no cases have been reported to date in Nunavut.
The numbers show COVID-19 is still disproportionately hitting Canadians in long-term care and seniors’ homes; they represent 18 per cent of all cases and 82 per cent of Canada’s 7,495 deaths.
Of the total number of deaths, 94 per cent were 60 or older. That same age demographic represents 71 per cent of the 8,742 hospital admissions and 61 per cent of the 1,721 ICU admissions.
WATCH | Federal health officials offer update on COVID-19
It’s the third time Canada’s leading public health officials have given an update on the expected impact the novel coronavirus will have on the Canadian population. It comes as some provinces have reported a downturn in cases and are beginning to reopen their economies, including some schools, stores and parks.
The doctors said the evidence shows health measures have been effective in controlling the epidemic. They also warned that lifting those measures — such as business and school closures and general stay-at-home requirements — without strengthening other public health measures likely would cause the epidemic to rebound.
“It doesn’t take very long for an outbreak to really gain some steam,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
One of the markers health officials use to measure Canada’s recovery is the “effective reproductive number”, or Rt. It represents the number of cases that are expected to occur on average as a result of a single person being infected.
Canada’s Rt has remained below one for the last two weeks, suggesting public health measures are being effective in controlling the epidemic, said Tam.
The rate has fluctuated over the last month due to ongoing transmissions in some communities, especially in and around Toronto and Montreal, she said.
“The data shows that we are continuing to make progress in the fight against this virus. In many communities, the number of new cases is low and we can trace where they came from. That’s an encouraging sign that the virus is slowing and in some places even stopping,” Trudeau told reporters outside his home at Rideau Cottage Thursday morning.
“But I want to be very clear, we’re not out of the woods. The pandemic is still threatening the health and safety of Canadians.”
The public health presentation made a point of stressing that outbreaks in other congregate living settings, apart from long-term care homes, are also driving case counts.
For example, the country’s largest single outbreak occurred at the Cargill meat-processing plant in Alberta with 1,560 cases among workers, household and community members.
As of Thursday morning, Canada has 93,085 confirmed and presumptive novel coronavirus cases, with 51,048 of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to data compiled by The Canadian Press.
Ontario reported 356 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the province’s network of labs processed a record number of tests for the novel coronavirus.
The 1.2 per cent jump in cases brings the total in Ontario since the outbreak began in late January to 29,403.
As of today, Quebec has 52,143 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,885 people have died of the illness in the province — an increase of 259 cases and 91 deaths over a day earlier.
Federal projection figures don’t always turn out to be completely accurate.
At the end of April, the government estimated that Canada was on a path to between 53,196 and 66,835 cases of COVID-19, and between 3,277 and 3,883 deaths, by May 5.
According to CBC News figures, as of May 5 there were more than 62,000 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases and 4,166 people had died.