The rising tide of COVID-19 infections across much of Canada threatens to swamp a hospital system already under strain, the country’s top doctor warned Saturday amid case numbers that continued to set records in long-standing virus hot spots.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam described the situation in Western Canada, Quebec and Ontario as “worrisome” hours after several provinces posted new single-day highs for provincial case counts. The soaring numbers there and beyond, she contended, have potential to overtax the country’s hospitals.
“This situation … it is putting pressure on local healthcare resources,” she said in a statement. “Hospitals are being forced to make the difficult decision to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in areas of the country to manage (increases).”
Tam said the number of people with severe cases of COVID-19 continues to increase, with a daily average of more than 1,400 people being treated in hospitals over the past week.
1/2 To date, labs across 🇨🇦 have tested 10,228,547 people for <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>, w\ an average ~2.6% positive overall, for a rate of 272,114 people tested per million population in Canada. <a href=”https://t.co/jrZH3tHRUo”>https://t.co/jrZH3tHRUo</a>
That includes a daily average of 280 people in critical care and 55 deaths reported each day over the past seven days, she added.
But Tam warned that those numbers lag behind overall case increase figures by one to two weeks.
“The concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity,” she said.
Tam said Western provinces saw a weekly increase in daily hospitalization between 24 to 50 per cent compared to last week.
While Ontario and Quebec saw lower increases, those provinces continue to have the highest numbers of people in hospital, she added, saying flu season is also straining hospital capacity.
“This is why it is so important for people of all ages to maintain public health practices that keep respiratory infection rates low,” she said.
Tam urged Canadians to follow public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the current pace, it is estimated that there will be 10,000 cases daily by early December, she said.
“What comes next for us this fall and winter is for every one of us to determine, through our decisions and actions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among many political leaders and officials urging those celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali to recognize the holiday virtually this year in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I know celebrations will look different this year,” he said in a video statement posted to social media.
“But the message at the heart of the day – that light, hope, and knowledge will always triumph over darkness, evil, and ignorance – remains the same, and it has never been more important.”
Happy Diwali! I know celebrations will look different this year, but the message at the heart of the day – that light, hope, and knowledge will always triumph over darkness, evil, and ignorance – remains the same, and it has never been more important. <a href=”https://t.co/HBAydTSaiW”>https://t.co/HBAydTSaiW</a> <a href=”https://t.co/KrVU18DKLz”>pic.twitter.com/KrVU18DKLz</a>
Tam urged people “to celebrate this holiday differently — to be creative and celebrate safely,” suggesting virtual celebrations and gatherings in “large open spaces.”
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh posted a video on Twitter urging people to stay home over Diwali, the five-day festival of lights that began Saturday and is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 291,935 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 232,915 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,891.
Alberta reported more than a thousand new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday. In addition to the 1,026 new infections, the province also announced three additional deaths.
Saskatchewan announced a record 308 new cases, with 123 of those cases coming from Saskatoon. Intensive care units in that city are so full that officials have stopped accepting most out-of-town patients.
Manitoba said Saturday 15 more people have died of COVID-19, marking the highest single-day increase in fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic. There are also 239 new cases, the province said.
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Ontario reported 1,581 new cases, hitting a new daily high.
Meanwhile, seven residents have died at a Scarborough long-term care home amid an outbreak, while 136 other residents and 66 staff members have tested positive for the virus.
Quebec, which has seen more reported COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other Canadian province, topped more than 1,400 new cases for the first time. In addition to the record 1,448 new infections, the province also reported 25 more deaths.
Nova Scotia reported six new cases Saturday — the largest single-day increase in cases since May 15.
“I am concerned that people are not taking the virus seriously and putting others in jeopardy,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news release from the Department of Health and Wellness.
New Brunswick also announced six new cases — the largest single-day increase in nearly a month.
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Newfoundland and Labrador recorded two new cases. The province said both are travel-related, one returning from Ontario and the other from the U.S.
Prince Edward Island’s revised pandemic visitor and compassionate grounds visitation protocol is expected to come into effect next week, and will apply both to public and private facilities on P.E.I.
Nunavut reported four new cases, all of them in the Hudson Bay community of Arviat. The latest cases make for a total of five in Arviat after the territory’s health officials announced a case there on Friday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 53.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 34.5 million of those considered recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.3 million, the database reported.
In Europe, Russia has reported a new one-day high in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections recorded. The national virus taskforce reported 22,702 new cases and 391 more virus-related deaths on Saturday. Russia’s highest daily death toll of the pandemic, 439, was reported on Thursday.
In Asia, India’s overall tally of new coronavirus cases remained steady on Saturday, but rising numbers in New Delhi coincide with a busy festival season nationwide, with millions celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
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In the Americas, Mexico surpassed a million confirmed cases and closed in on nearly 100,000 deaths. The country’s government has marched resolutely, even defiantly, against many internationally accepted practices in pandemic management, from face mask wearing, to lockdowns, testing and contact tracing.
In Africa, the continent has seen more than 1.9 million confirmed cases and more than 46,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. South Africa leads the continent on both counts, having recorded more than 746,000 infections and more than 20,000 deaths.