As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across Canada, politicians and health authorities are begging Canadians to follow public health recommendations more strictly.
As of Friday morning, Canada has had over 315,754 cases and 11,265 deaths. There are 52,000 active cases in the country and new cases are increasing rapidly—there were 15 percent more cases this week than last.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed reporters about the COVID trajectory from the front of Rideau College Friday morning, much like at the start of the pandemic. Speaking candidly, Trudeau admitted the “coming months will be difficult” with winter forcing Canadians inside. However, limiting contacts will be necessary to address the “sharp spike” we’re seeing, he said. He begged Canadians to “step up” and to think of vulnerable Canadians and health care workers when making decisions.
“If you were planning to see friends this weekend, maybe don’t. If there was a birthday party or a dinner you were thinking about doing, don’t do it,” said Trudeau. “We’re in a moment right now where even with all the sacrifices I know Canadians have been making over these past ten months we are going to have to really tighten up once again.”
New projected trajectories from the Public Health Agency of Canada outlining possible COVID-19 spread are sobering.
Currently, Canada is experiencing 4,800 new cases per day. In a worst-case scenario—meaning that Canadians ignore social distancing guidelines, as could happen during the holidays—Canada could have as many as 60,000 new cases per day by the end of the year if no changes are made. If Canadians don't make any changes, the country is expected to have 20,000 new cases per day. If Canadians start limiting their interactions and following public health guidelines more strictly that could be cut down to 10,000.
“We’re continuing rapid growth in daily cases and counts, rising numbers in hospitalizations and deaths and spread in high-risk populations and settings," said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top health authority, at a press conference on Friday. “There is an urgency to bring infection rates down across the country… We are not on a good trajectory."
Trudeau also announced rent subsidies for small businesses impacted by lockdowns and extended the wage subsidies for workers into the summer.
For months now, Tam has been warning of a second spike that may occur because of COVID fatigue. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that she understands the difficulty of this second wave but Canadians must take it seriously as the more the virus spreads the more difficult it becomes to control.
“This wave is undeniably harder, we’re all tired, we’re all lonely, and we all want our lives back but we can’t give up now but we can see the light, the potential of vaccines and spring but let's all pitch in and get there safely," she said. “Think about the decisions you make, because lives actually depend on it.”
Provinces across the country are taking measures to combat outbreaks in their populations. British Columbia has made masks mandatory and is asking for non-essential travel within the province to be sharply limited. Authorities in Manitoba have banned all indoor gatherings and any outdoor gathering of more than five people. Nunavut, which previously had no cases but is now spiking, has closed all nonessential businesses and services, told people who can work from home to do so, and banned gatherings of more than five people. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is holding a press conference later today and is expecting to implement harsher restrictions which may include a possible lockdown for Toronto. Alberta is the only province not to implement a mask mandate.
The non-essential travel ban between the U.S. and Canada has also been yet again extended by 30 days.
One of the most concerning things about this second wave is not just the trajectory of new cases but who is being infected. For the last few months, the cases have been consistently high among young people but Tam said the cases are starting to switch to a far more vulnerable population.
“Incidents have been steadily increasing among individuals 80 years or older for several weeks,” said Tam. “Elderly adults in this age group are at the highest risk of severe outcomes and death and now have the highest recorded incident rates nationally as well as regionally in Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario.”
Trudeau urged Canadians to remember that everyone who is killed by the virus was “someone with family and friends who loved them who had plans for tomorrow who had plans for something to do.”
“We have a long winter ahead as the weather drives us indoors, we really are in danger of seeing more transmission and far too many more deaths. It will be tough but we know what we have to do.”
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