Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on May 10, 2021

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

May 10, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Since the start of the pandemic, nurses and other health care professionals have been on the frontline, delivering high quality and compassionate care under challenging and difficult circumstances to ensure that people in Canada continue to receive not only COVID-19 care, but the health services needed to support well-being. Today marks National Nursing Week, and this year’s theme “We Answer The Call” highlights the many roles that nurses play in a patients’ healthcare journeys, from education and delivery of public health programs including vaccinations, to implementing infection control and prevention measures and contributing to research. We all benefit from their knowledge, skills and care and never has this been more evident than this past year. From the many nurses who have come out of retirement to the creative ways nurses have worked to ensure human connection despite COVID-19 restrictions, thank you for the many sacrifices you have made and for your commitment to providing exceptional care. Please take a moment this week to thank nurses in your community and show your appreciation by doing your part to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

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. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing Canadians with regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety across the country. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to reduce infection rates, while vaccination programs expand for the protection of all Canadians. Due to reduced reporting over the weekend, national seven-day averages have not been updated in today’s statement. These data are still being collected and analysed. I will provide the latest numbers during my remarks tomorrow.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,286,666 cases of COVID-19, including 80,789 active cases and 24,626 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that a large majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. Multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, with unique advantages, are authorised for use in Canada. As vaccine delivery continues to ramp up, there is increasing optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. Benefits are being seen among groups targeted for priority vaccination and as vaccine coverage increases across Canada, we can expect further benefits to protect more Canadians over the coming weeks and months.

However, as COVID-19 activity is elevated or increasing in many jurisdictions, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating and individual precautions are important everywhere. The latest national-level data show the decline in national case counts has slowed to a less than 2% decrease over the past week, with an average of 7,749 cases being reported daily (Apr 30-May 6). For the week of April 25-May 1, there were on average of 133,695 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 6.1% were positive for COVID-19, a decrease from 6.6% the week prior.

Elevated infection rates continue to impact lagging COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with sustained high levels of disease activity. These persistently high numbers of severe and critical illnesses have placed a prolonged and heavy strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,190 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Apr 30-May 6) representing a 4.6% decrease over last week. This includes, on average 1,454 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 2.3% higher than the previous week. Although the mortality trend has recently leveled off, with a 7-day average of 46 deaths reported daily (Apr 30-May 6), continued high rates of infection and still rising critical care admissions could negatively impact this trend.

While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those under 60 years of age. Serious illness can occur at any age and evidence indicates that variants of concern can be associated with more severe illness and increased risk of death. In addition, circulation of COVID-19 in younger, more mobile and socially-connected adults is an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations and settings. Variants of concern (VOCs) now represent a majority of COVID-19 cases in Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant now reported in all provinces and territories and accounting for over 95% of VOCs sequenced to date. As this variant spreads more quickly and has been associated with increased severity, and as vaccines may be less effective against other variants, such as the P.1 and B.1.351 variants, it is even more important to remain vigilant with all available measures to suppress spread.

As vaccine eligibility expands, Canadians are urged to get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated as vaccines become available to them. However, regardless of our vaccination status, Canadians are urged to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer, even as we’re beginning to see the positive impacts of COVID-19 vaccines: 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 well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces, indoors or outdoors, with people from outside of your immediate household).

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