Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday, December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday, December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds say all large provinces need stronger COVID-19 response ‘now’

Infections continue to climb in the six provinces west of the Atlantic region

Health officials are urging Canadians to not drop their guard in anticipation of the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, as federal forecasts predict the country will hit several grim new milestones during the holiday season.

New modelling released on Friday anticipates the COVID-19 death toll could hit nearly 15,000 by Christmas Day, while case counts are projected to climb to as many as 12,000 per day by the start of January.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Canada remains on a “rapid growth trajectory.”

In their update, the feds warned that all large provinces need to strengthen their COVID-19 responses “now” to stem the rise in infections.

“Knowing access to safe and effective vaccines for all Canadians is within sight might lead some to think COVID-19 is no longer problem. But the reality is very different,” Tam told reporters on Friday.

Infections continue to climb in the six provinces west of the Atlantic region, with rates rising precipitously Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, according to the federal data.

But Tam noted that forecast for the new year isn’t quite as grim as it looked two weeks ago, saying stricter measures in Manitoba and British Columbia appear to have helped slow the spread of the virus.

“When public health authorities and individuals work together to implement and adhere to more stringent controls, we can bend that curve.”

Tam said there are currently more than 73,200 active COVID-19 cases in Canada, up from about 52,000 just three weeks ago.

The national positivity rate is 6.5 per cent, Tam said, with 49 of 99 health regions reporting more than 100 cases per 100,000 population.

Increasing community spread is leading to more and bigger outbreaks in high-risk settings, Tam said, including hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, shelters and long-term care homes.

She said the spread in long-term care homes is of particular concern as infection rates rise among older Canadians who face a higher risk of COVID-19 complications.

Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services Canada, said there’s also been a troubling spike in outbreaks in Indigenous communities.

There were 5,675 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves as of Dec. 10, according to Indigenous Services Canada, including 2,100 active cases.

Making sure early vaccine batches reach Indigenous populations is one of the key priorities of highlighted by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, due to the disproportionate consequences of infection in those communities.

The feds are setting aside additional vaccine doses for First Nations people who live on reserve, where health care is a federal responsibility, said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

However Metis, First Nations and Inuit living in urban areas, for instance, will be considered part of the provincial population, she said.

This is “very concerning” for National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations.

“Whether you live on reserve or not, the federal government has responsibility to provide the vaccine to First Nations — without delay,” he tweeted after Hajdu’s remarks on Friday, adding his office has reached out to the minister for clarification.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jovin Walkus and Alayah Mack enjoy the Centennial Pool in summer 2020. (Geneva Walkus photo)
CCRD receives more funding for Centennial Pool project

The total funding for the project is now over $4 million

Provincial funding in the amount of $300,000 has been announced for the Cariboo Regional District’s plans to improve the Anahim Lake Airport runway. (CRD photo)
$300,000 provincial funding to fuel Anahim Lake Airport runway upgrade

The recovery grant is one of 38 announced to support jobs in rural communities

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The school is very proud of these students (pictured, left to right): Halim Demir (holding Grace Valdez’ gold certificate); Lauren McIlwain, Shayleen Mack, Jaymen Schieck, Kyle Doiron, and Finn Carlson (photo submitted)
SAMS students excel in international competition

The SAMS team swept their category this year; all six participants received awards

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read