With ears perked across the country for when health officials will begin easing the strict measures in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Canada’s top doctor is reminding the public that tiding the virus is not a sprint, but a marathon.
Roughly 503,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus, with a positive test rate of six per cent, said Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada, during a news conference on Friday morning (April 17).
Canada’s latest tally on Friday showed that there have been 30,000 cases confirmed by lab testing. Across the provinces, 1,250 people have died. Meanwhile, 10,000 people have recovered from the respiratory illness, which has no cure of vaccine, making the total number of active cases roughly 18,750.
But while daily case counts start to slow death tolls are climbing, Tam explained, due to the prolonged nature of the virus’s incubation and recovery time and because such a high proportion of outbreaks are in long term care centres.
“It creates a bit of a paradox where early in an epidemic we see a rapid growth of new infections but not so with deaths,” she said, “but as the epidemic begins to slow, deaths accumulate at a faster pace.”
#COVID19 update from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer (as of April 17 at noon):
—31,407 cases, 1,250 deaths
—cases not climbing as quickly but deaths still increasing due to disease's long clinical course
—need to protect vulnerable populations pic.twitter.com/J2HAId6MbZ
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) April 17, 2020
More than 90 per cent of the patients confirmed to have died from COVID-19 are over the age of 60, and half of them lived in long term care centres, according to statistics from Health Canada.
Federal models are now predicting between 1,200 and 1,620 deaths from COVID-19 by April 21. Last week the projections expected between 500 and 700 deaths this week.
“At this important junction, intense public health efforts are needed to stamp out existing outbreaks, prevent new outbreaks and manage chains of transmission in the community,” Tam said. “To get this done, without slipping backwards, all Canadians need to stay home and practise physical distancing.”
While it is unclear just how long COVID-19 will impact daily life, the federal government is preparing for at least some restrictions to last into the summer.
In his daily briefing out front of Rideau Cottage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government is planning a virtual Canada Day celebration in place of the typical gathering at Parliament Hill, which will feature Canadian artists.
In B.C., health officials have cautioned that it could be awhile until British Columbians gain some normalcy. If some of the restrictions are to be lifted, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has warned that those same provisions could return by the fall.
Any changes to measures taken by individual provinces will have to keep the nation in mind, Tam notioned.
“No matter where we are in the country we have to remember that Canadians are all susceptible to the virus,” she said. “Remember this is not a sprint it is a marathon and there will only be unpleasant surprises if we quit early.”