Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on December 16, 2020

Statement

December 16, 2020 | Ottawa, ON | Public 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 475,214 cases of COVID-19, including 13,659 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though the cumulative number is high and many areas are continuing 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 75,580 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,597 new cases (Dec 9-15). COVID-19 is spreading among people of all ages, with high infection rates across all age groups. However, nationally, infection rates remain highest among those aged 80 years and older who are at highest risk for severe outcomes.

Likewise, outbreaks continue to occur in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country. The downstream impacts of weeks and months of elevated disease activity continues to be seen in still rising numbers of severe illness and death, significant disruptions to health services and ongoing challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.

Nationally, hospitalisations and deaths, which tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks are still increasing. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 3,096 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 9-15), including 629 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 113 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.

While we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines, Canadians are urged to continue with individual practices that keep us and our families safer, while protecting populations and communities at high risk for severe outcomes, including over these upcoming holidays. To do this, we need to continue to limit close contacts to only those in our immediate household and reduce in-person interactions to only essential errands and activities, while consistently maintaining key public health practices: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask as appropriate (including indoors with people from outside your immediate household), and keep up with frequent hand, cough and surface hygiene. Avoid the three C’s as much as possible: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places where many people gather, and close contact situations where you cannot keep two metres apart. Importantly, please follow the guidance of your local public health authorities.

In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, I had the pleasure of speaking to Santa Claus through a video call to his home in the North Pole. We discussed the things he, Mrs. Claus and their team of elves are doing to keep things safe for everyone during this challenging time. We have declared him an essential worker, so that he is able to travel in Canada and make his deliveries as usual. He has also installed the ArriveCAN app and the COVID Alert app on his smartphone. I can assure you that he and his team are respecting public health practices, so that they can safely deliver presents to the children in Canada and around the world. Santa told me how grateful he is that children are following public health practices and I agree. I encourage you to continue those practices to keep everyone safe and healthy. While this holiday season will feel very different than other years, remember how important our responsibility is to protect one another and to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Contacts

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

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