Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on January 23, 2021

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

January 23, 2021Ottawa, ONPublic Health Agency of Canada

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 737,407 cases of COVID-19, including 18,828 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though many areas continue to experience high infection rates, 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 65,750 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate a recent downward trend in daily case counts (past 10 days), with a 7-day average of 6,079 new cases daily (Jan 15-21). While this suggests that community-based measures may be starting to take effect, it is too soon to be sure that current measures are strong enough and broad enough to maintain a steady downward trend. With still elevated daily case counts and high rates of infection across all age groups, the risk remains that this trend could reverse. Likewise, outbreaks continue to occur in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, correctional facilities, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country. These factors underscore the importance of sustaining public health measures and individual practices and not easing restrictions too fast or too soon. This is particularly important in light of the emergence of new virus variants of concern that could rapidly accelerate transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.

As severe outcomes lag behind increased disease activity, we can expect to see ongoing heavy impacts on our healthcare system and health workforce for weeks to come. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,651 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Jan 15-21), including 870 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period (Jan 15-21), there were an average of 149 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. This situation continues to burden local healthcare resources, particularly in areas where infection rates are highest. These impacts affect everyone, as the healthcare workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs.

Stringent and consistent efforts are needed to sustain a downward trend in case counts and strongly suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada. This will not only prevent more tragic outcomes, but will help to ensure that new virus variants of concern do not have the opportunity to spread. Unless we continue the hard work to suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada, there is a risk that more transmissible virus variants could take hold or even replace less transmissible variants, which could result in a significant and difficult to control acceleration of spread. Staying the course will also buy critical time for vaccines to begin working, as we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines.

A range of public health measures and restrictions are in place across Canada as we continue our collective effort to interrupt the spread of the virus. Canadians are urged to continue following local public health advice and to consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, 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 face mask as appropriate (including in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household).

Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to break the cycle of infection and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.

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