Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, January 19, 2021


Welcome to this virtual press conference. My colleagues and I in Ottawa are trying to do our part in reducing contacts as much as possible.

There have been over 715,000 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 18,120 deaths and nearly 74,000 active cases across the country. Nationally, the average case count is now close to 6,700 new cases being reported daily over the past week, with a still increasing number of people experiencing severe illness. There are an average of about 4,775 individuals with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals, over 880 of whom are in critical care, and over 140 deaths are being reported each day. Canada continues to monitor for virus variants of concern; to date, the National Microbiology Laboratory has verified 23 cases with the [B.1.1.7] variant first reported in the United Kingdom and 2 cases with the [501Y.V2] variant first reported in South Africa.

By now, we have seen time and again that our actions matter. As we've watched COVID-19 trend up and down, and up again, we are reminded that our actions have consequences. Every time we get a little too tired or a little too excited about holidays or start thinking that vaccines could give us a shortcut, we are met with a new spike of activity as COVID-19 tries to take the lead again. We have also come to realise that we're not all on equal footing, and that some in our communities need additional support to be able to keep themselves and their loved ones safer.

Last week's national epidemiology and modelling update was the latest reality check. Of course, we're all tired and want this to be over and ultimately to win against this virus, but we are again at a pivotal moment where there is a great deal at stake. As cases accumulate ever more quickly, hospitalisations, critical illness and deaths will continue to rise. It is incumbent upon all of us to prevent more of these tragic consequences.

Redoubling our efforts and not letting up is the difficult work we need to do now. The consequences of these actions are the compound benefits we all want – by suppressing COVID-19 disease activity we are all contributing to reducing the burden on the health system, supporting our health care workforce in the difficult task of planning and implementing mass vaccine rollout; and giving vaccines a longer runway to begin to work, as access expands to reach all Canadians.

For all we have been through and all we stand to achieve in the months ahead, we owe it to ourselves and all those we have worked to protect thus far to see this through and save every life we can. Every vacation travel we postpone for a better time in the future; every outing or activity we avoid, shorten, or limit to essentials; all the diligence we apply to handwashing, masking, and spacing helps to reduce spread of the virus. This is the tough part of the COVID-19 marathon, together it will be easier.

Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus and others.

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