Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on January 20, 2021

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OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 20, 2021 /CNW/ – 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 719,751 cases of COVID-19, including 18,266 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though many areas continue 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. 

With the current momentum of the epidemic and continued high rates of infection in many areas of the country, rapid accumulation of cases will continue until we can make significant progress in interrupting spread. At this time, there are 71,055 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,469 new cases (Jan 13-19). 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, correctional facilities, 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 4,737 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Jan 13-19), including 878 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period (Jan 13-19), there were an average of 141 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.

As viruses spread it is common for new variants to emerge. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to work with provinces, territories and other partners to closely monitor for the emergence of COVID-19 virus variants to identify variants of concern in Canada and internationally. While the number of cases in Canada with a virus variant of concern has been limited to date, recent cases with no travel history suggests that community transmission may already be occurring in Canada. Although some virus variants appear to be more transmissible, which could result in an acceleration of COVID-19 infections with community transmission, we know that existing public health measures and individual practices are effective. To ensure that virus variants that can spread more easily do not take hold, there is even greater urgency to suppress COVID-19 activity in Canada. Now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant and redouble our efforts that remove opportunities for the virus to spread to prevent more harm and impact on the health system.  

Canada needs a collective effort, from public health authorities and individuals, as a range of public health measures and restrictions are implemented to interrupt rapid spread of the virus. Canadians are urged to continue following local public health advice and to consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household).

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.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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