Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, December 4, 2020


There have been 396,270 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 12,407 deaths. Nationally, there are 69,255 active cases across the country. Over the past week, laboratories across Canada have tested an average of about 74,600 people daily, with 7.4% testing positive. The national average case count is now close to 6,200 cases reported daily over the last 7 days.

With continued rapid growth of the epidemic over many weeks in a growing number of health regions across Canada, the troubling rise in the number of people experiencing severe illness continues. Over the past week there have been on average close to 2,500 individuals with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals, including almost 500 in critical care, and 87 deaths reported each day. The latest longer range modelling forecasts that if we stay on the same trajectory we could reach 10,000 cases daily by January.

The progression of the COVID-19 pandemic has been filled with difficult news as rapid epidemic growth continues and high infection rates are affecting more and more health regions. The impacts of ongoing community spread are increasingly being felt in high-risk populations and settings, including long term care homes and hospitals. But, these impacts affect everyone, as our health workforce and health system bear a heavy strain and must cancel or postpone important elective medical procedures adding to pre-existing backlogs. Good news cannot come quickly enough.

So I want to talk about some good news, while not losing sight of the challenges we still face. Canada is well positioned to provide access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all Canadians and an initial supply of vaccines is expected to become available in early 2021. We know that supplies will be limited at the outset; therefore, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization ("NACI") has released its latest guidance providing further recommendations for the initial sequencing of key populations for early COVID-19 immunization.

NACI recommends that initial doses of authorized COVID-19 vaccine(s) should be offered to:

  • Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors
  • Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older
  • Health care workers (including all those who work in health care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients)
  • Adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences

The federal government is working hard with province and territories on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine roll out, informed by public health, scientific and medical experts, including NACI.

A successful pandemic immunization response, requires us to continue working together, with trust and understanding, toward a common goal. I recently read a quote that captures this perfectly: "Public health moves at the speed of trust" by Dr. Rishi Manchanda, member of the US Community-Based Workforce Alliance. This reminds us that our success against COVID-19 will only work with the confidence, trust and cohesion of all Canadians.

We don't have a vaccine just yet, and we must be prepared to address a range of logistical and operational challenges. But one thing is assured - any and all COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada, will be required to meet the highest standards of quality, safety and effectiveness set by Health Canada's rigorous regulatory review process. We are committed to sharing new information as it becomes available. Let's keep the dialogue open.

Finally, with our eye on the end goal and with full awareness that the road to widespread and lasting immunity to COVID-19 won't be as sudden or as soon as we'd like, let's steel our resolve to work together. Continue to follow local public health advice as measures are introduced for controlling spread across the population and maintain individual protective practices that will keep us safe along the path ahead: stay home and self-isolate if you have any symptoms, even mild ones; clean your hands frequently; maintain physical distancingwear a face mask when around people from outside of your immediate household; and avoid or limit time spent in the 3Cs - closed spacescrowded places and close-contact settings and situations.

Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others.

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