Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on 20 November

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

November 19, 2020Ottawa, ONPublic Health Agency of Canada

In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:

“As the resurgence of 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 311,109 cases of COVID-19, including 11,186 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though the cumulative number is high and many areas are experiencing rapid growth, 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 51,602 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 4,788 new cases (Nov 12-18) and over 58,400 people daily, with 6.6% testing positive (Nov 8-14). Both community transmission and outbreaks are contributing to COVID-19 spread in Canada, including spread to high risk populations and settings. Cases are increasing among older adults, particularly those aged 80 years and older who currently have the highest incidence rate, nationally. More and larger outbreaks are occurring in long term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals, and spreading in Indigenous communities. These developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.

Across Canada, the number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase. Provincial and territorial data, indicate that an average of 1,789 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Nov 12-18), including 360 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 72 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. This situation is putting pressure on local healthcare resources and forcing hospitals to make the difficult decision to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in several areas of the country.

As hospitalisations and deaths tend to lag behind increased cases by one to several weeks, the concern remains that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity. As well, influenza and respiratory infections typically increase during the Fall and Winter, placing increased demands on hospitals. This is why it is so important for people of all ages to maintain public health practices that keep respiratory infection rates low.

With colder weather, we are moving indoors. Larger clusters tell us that closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places where many people gather and close contact situations can amplify spread of the virus. Jurisdictions continue to highlight informal social gatherings and activities as an important driver for spread. In these more relaxed settings, such as family and holiday celebrations and recreational activities, letting our guard down and not consistently maintaining public health practices, can lead to many exposures and infections. For these reasons, it is recommended that everyone wear a non-medical mask when spending time indoors with people from outside of your immediate household.

Canada needs a collective effort to support and sustain the public health response through to the end of the pandemic, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences. Given recent developments, there is an urgent need for everyone to take individual actions to not only protect ourselves but also our populations and communities at high risk. To do this, we need to retake the lead on COVID-19, by each reducing our close contacts to the best of our ability and employing key public health practices consistently and with precision: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask as appropriate, and keep up with frequent hand, cough and surface

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