Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, February 16, 2021


There have been 826,924 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 21,311 deaths. Over the past week, there were on average over 98,000 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 3.1% were positive for COVID-19. Overall, disease activity and severe outcomes are continuing to decline nationally and there are now less than 35,700 active cases across the country. Over the past week, on average, under 3,050 new cases and 75 deaths were reported daily. In our hospitals, just over 2,700 people with COVID-19 were being treated each day, including 622 in critical care.

This steady progress demonstrates that a combination of community based measures and individual practices works to slow the spread of COVID-19, as long as we can abide by and sustain these measures long enough. This is what the longer-range forecast models have been telling us for weeks, and it's thanks to the combined “YOU + Public Health” effort that we have made crucial progress.

But, COVID-19 has come back with another twist. In the past two months more contagious new variants have emerged in Canada and now appear in all 10 provinces. Starting with a few travel-related cases in the early weeks, these variants have been smouldering in the background and gaining fuel that now threatens to flare up into a new, rapidly spreading blaze. There are now over 540 B.1.1.7 variants, 33 B.1.351 variants and 1 P.1 variant. More worrisome is that at least four provinces are reporting evidence of community spread and outbreak activity associated with these faster spreading variants. The rapid rise of cases in a previously well-controlled situation in Newfoundland and Labrador, is a testament to how quickly things can change when more contagious variants are introduced. Fortunately, the rapid, decisive public health response by the province is what is needed to stop a variant of concern in its tracks.

This is a set back for sure and no doubt we feel frustrated, but let's not allow that feeling to detract from the progress we have made since the holidays, which puts us in much better stead to deal with this latest hurdle. Because of our efforts we are entering into a situation that many countries have faced before us in much better shape. We have lowered infection rates across the country, protected our health system, prevented many severe illnesses, and saved lives.

Though we may feel tired, and have all suffered losses, collectively we cannot afford to take the brakes off. We need to protect our progress and keep the runway clear for vaccine programs to expand and begin to work. This virus has shown time and again that what works is a united front, quick action and sustained effort. There is no time to lose on division; to get over this hurdle we need to work together from a place of compassion, understanding and a shared commitment to see things through.

This weekend a group of kids from Ottawa sent in the best Valentine's Day E-Card ever. It was a beautiful heart shaped collage with each kid holding a heart in their hands thanking us for our work. I would like to pay it forwards and share their thanks for the dedication and commitment shown by everyone in Canada, and I know we have what it takes to continue. Let's vanquish the variants - Let's do it together!

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 to others.

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