Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, September 29, 2020

Speech

Good afternoon. Bonjour à toutes et à tous.

There have been 155,301 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,278 deaths. Labs across Canada tested an average of over 71,000 people daily over the past week with 1.7% testing positive. Yesterday, a total of 2,176 cases were reported nationally; 437 of these cases were backlogged cases from the weekend and 1,739 were newly identified yesterday. This means daily case count has now reached the peak of daily cases seen in April and the average daily case count has increased to 1,412 cases being reported during the most recent seven days.

The fact that cases are now at the same level as during the initial peak is worrisome. At the same time, there are clear differences in the epidemiology with younger age groups predominating among cases and we are testing and detecting more cases. Things have escalated quickly and they can escalate further unless we all work together to slow the spread of the virus. There is no doubt that "testing, tracing and isolating" in order to interrupt transmission of the virus and prevent further infections is a cornerstone of our COVID-19 pandemic response.

Public health authorities are working hard to find a range of testing solutions to improve access, and speed up the turnaround time for results. In Ontario for example, as in Alberta, tests can now be performed in pharmacies. British Columbia has introduced a spit and swish testing method, which will be used as an alternative to the nasal swab, especially for collecting samples from children.

Health Canada is reviewing a range of simpler to use and faster tests. As the regulator, Health Canada is responsible for ensuring the safety, effectiveness and quality of all tests, which is crucial for disease management. For example, an underperforming test could result in a high number of false negative test results where people think they aren't infected when they are, leading to unintentional exposures. This is why the review process is so important and why no corners can be cut.

As the number of cases rise and the demand for testing increases, testing will be most important for those who have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to a confirmed case or are part of an outbreak investigation or have been otherwise advised by local public health to get tested. As I have said before, getting tested for COVID-19 is an act of kindness that can protect you, your family and your community.

I also wanted to mention a new online tool called COVID Trends, released by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It provides you with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in your area within the last 14 days. This is another way to stay informed about COVID-19 activity in your community, and help you make informed decisions to keep yourself and your family safer.

And as always, I want to end by asking everyone to follow the public health practices we know to be effective; including physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and wearing a non-medical mask in closed spaces, crowded places and close contact situations where distancing is difficult. Most importantly, stay home and self-isolate if you have symptoms, even mild ones.

Thank you.

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