Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on February 24, 2021
February 24, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada
Throughout the pandemic, there have been countless examples of Canadians showing kindness and compassion to others as we faced uncertainty and challenges. We know, however, that some Canadians have experienced bullying associated with COVID-19, such as those who may have or have been exposed to COVID-19, or those who may have experienced stigma and discrimination such as dehumanizing name-calling, exclusion or violence based on gender identification, race, age or ability that can intensify the negative impacts of bullying. Today is Pink Shirt Day and I encourage you to wear something pink to raise awareness and stand up to bullying. Let's lift each other up, doing our part to recognize and prevent bullying and treating each other with kindness, respect, and dignity.
As 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 852,269 cases of COVID-19, including 21,762 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. As well, the emergence and spread of certain SARS-CoV-2 virus variants is an additional cause for concern. For the week of February 7-13, there were on average of 101,072 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 3.1% were positive for COVID-19. As of February 23, all provinces have reported detections of variants of concern, with over 827 B.1.1.7 variants, 40 B.1.351 variants and 1 P.1 variant, first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, respectively. Although it is normal for variants to emerge as viruses continuously evolve, some variants are considered "variants of concern" because they spread more easily, some may cause more severe illness, or current vaccines may be less effective against them. This is why we need to maintain the strictest vigilance in our public health measures and individual practices, which will help to prevent rapidly spreading variants that will make the epidemic much more difficult to control.
Nationally, routine surveillance data, continue to show a decline in COVID-19 activity, overall. Currently, there are 30,677 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data show a 7-day average of 2,956 new cases daily (Feb 17-23). Likewise, following the decrease in COVID-19 activity, severe outcomes continue to decline as expected for these lagging indicators. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 2,366 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Feb 17-23), including 528 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 53 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily.
While these surveillance data support that community-based measures are having an effect and that our collective effort is making a difference, it is crucial that strong measures are kept in place in order to maintain a steady downward trend. With still elevated daily case counts, the risk remains that trends could reverse quickly, particularly in areas of the country where more contagious virus variants are spreading or where increased, unchanged or only modest declines in COVID-19 disease activity are being reported. Likewise, outbreaks in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, correctional facilities, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country remain a concern, particularly as outbreaks involving variants of concern have now been reported in a wide range of settings in Canada. The latest longer-range forecast modelling that accounts for transmission dynamics of both non-variant COVID-19 and new variants of concern forecasts a strong resurgence in Canada, unless a combination of enhanced public health measures where needed and strict adherence to individual precautions is maintained. Likewise, over the coming weeks and months it will be important to maintain a high degree of caution and not ease restrictions too fast or too soon. Any easing of public health measures must be done slowly with enhanced testing, screening, and genomic analysis to detect variants of concern. In particular, there must be sufficient contact tracing capacity and supports for effective isolation, given increased transmissibility of variants of concern.
A range of public health measures are already in place across Canada as we continue our collective effort to interrupt the spread of the virus, including limiting the spread of more contagious variants, while we buy critical time for vaccine programs to ramp up. While we continue to make progress, Canadians are urged to remain vigilant and to continue following local public health advice as well as consistently maintaining individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces with people from outside your immediate household indoors and also outdoors where physical distancing is difficult to maintain). Aiming to have the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible is a simple rule that we can all apply to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while vaccine programs expand to protect all Canadians.
Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to break the cycle of infection and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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