Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on 20 October

From: Public 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 first cases were reported in March 2020, there have been 198,148 cases of COVID-19, including 9,760 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though the numbers are high and continue to increase at an accelerated pace, it is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. Hence, we all need to continue with individual precautions to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safer.

Currently, cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the country. At this time, there are 21,276 active cases across the country and the latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 2,284 new cases (Oct 10-16) and 77,000 people tested, with 2.4% testing positive (Sep 27-Oct 3*).

The number of people experiencing severe illness is also increasing. Provincial and territorial data, indicate that an average of 893 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Oct 10-16), including 178 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 20 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. As hospitalisations and deaths tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, the concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity. As well, we are entering flu season, a time when hospitals generally see increased activity due to influenza and to other respiratory infections. This is why it is so important for people of all ages to keep up with public health practices that keep the infection rate low.

Our primary goal for the pandemic response remains to minimise severe illness and deaths due to COVID-19. Public health is focussed on making the response sustainable through to the end of the pandemic while balancing the health, social and economic consequences. But public health cannot do this alone; this response requires a collective effort. We must keep our number of in-person close contacts low and adhere to proven effective public health practices, including self-isolating at home if you are experiencing any symptoms, maintaining physical distancing, wearing a face mask as appropriate and keeping up with hand, cough and surface hygiene. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others.

Finally, please plan to get your flu shot as soon as it becomes available in your area. You can get a flu shot at a flu clinic near you, a pharmacy that offers the flu shot, or by contacting your local public health unit to find other available options in your area.”

* The latest data for laboratory testing, for the period Oct 4-10 excludes data for Alberta due to a data standardisation issue that is currently being addressed. These data indicate that an average of over 68,000 people are being tested in provinces and territories outside Alberta, with 2.8 testing positive. This is an underestimate of the number of people being tested nationally and may be an over estimate of the percentage positive of people testing positive nationally.

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