Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on December 23, 2020

OTTAWA, ON, Dec. 23, 2020 /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 521,509 cases of COVID-19, including 14,425 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.

At this time, there are 75,523 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate daily averages of 6,614 new cases (Dec 16-22). 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 3,372 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 16-22), including 681 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period, there were an average of 109 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.

While we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines, Canadians are urged to continue with individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, follow local public health advice and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including when you can not consistently keep two metres apart from people outside your immediate household).

These practices are especially important over the holidays, as many of us are likely preparing for the holiday season, including shopping for gifts and other festive items and planning for ways to celebrate safely this year. Wherever possible, I encourage you to shop online or use curbside pickup to reduce your risk of exposure. If you do need to shop in person, plan ahead to avoid crowds, limit the number of people who shop with you and only pick up items you plan on purchasing. Please observe the COVID-19 safety measures in place in these settings, including floor markings and other physical distancing visual cues.

This year's holiday season will be different, and, for some, this may involve increased alcohol consumption. While the best way to avoid short and longer-term risks from alcohol is to not drink, Canadians who consume alcohol can consult Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines for strategies to help lower the risks. This resource offers information on standard drink sizes, recommended daily and weekly limits, and reminders to avoid alcohol and/or other drugs when pregnant or breastfeeding, and when operating a motor vehicle. And finally, please check with your local public health authority to find out what measures are in place for safer holidays this year, including limits on social gatherings. Remember that the safest way to celebrate this season is with members of your immediate household. This will not only help limit the spread as we continue to see a resurgence of COVID-19 activity in Canada, but the actions you take now could save lives.

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.

SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

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