Canada now has over 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday. Ontario has seen an increase of 401 cases on April 2, bringing the nation's total to 10,113. On March 1, there were only 24 cases nationwide. There have now been 120 Canadian deaths since the outbreak first hit home.
Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia are the provinces with the highest amount of confirmed cases according to Global News.
A growing fear surrounds the spread of the virus to retirement homes, Indigenous communities and correctional facilities due to the close proximity that people live to one another in those situations. Some of these spaces have already faced outbreaks according to Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer. A string of virus-related deaths have hit nursing homes and long-term care facilities in BC, Ontario and Alberta, leaving residents and staff feeling extra vulnerable.
Community transmission, meaning the infected haven't travelled or had close contact with a confirmed case accounts for 64 percent of Canada's coronavirus cases, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. People who contract the virus are often asymptomatic, meaning they are unaware that they are carrying coronavirus which results in mass spreading.
Dr. Tam says the spike in numbers don't yet reveal at what point in time people have become sick, making if difficult to see if the measures of social distancing have been as effective as initially hoped. “What you’re seeing today is what happened to someone when they were symptomatic at least two weeks ago,” she said.
This coming week will be “crucial” to see whether these protocols have had any effect.
“There are still outbreaks connected to a number of high-risk settings in Canada, particularly in long-term care facilities. So there’s still an urgent need to double-down on precautions,” she said.
“While many cases occur in younger adults, it really is people over the age of 60 who account for 60 percent of the hospitalizations and 90 per cent of deaths. The high-risk population needs to take every precaution.”
As of March 30, over 222,000 Canadians have been tested as efforts for testing have increased. Ontario is facing criticism at the moment for its lackluster approach to testing, with 11,000 tests currently backlogged. The province has the lowest rates in the country at only 351 per 100,000. As of April 1, British Columbia on the other hand had a test rate of 846 per 100,000.
The backlog in Ontario is the reason their numbers are spiking. The province tested 6,245 people in one day, on March 31, doubling the amount of people it had tested on the day previous.
“The cases that are currently being diagnosed are really historic cases, looking back at what has happened over the last week to 10 days,” said Christine Elliot, Ontario Health Minister.
“What’s going to be most important is what we are going to see when the backlog is cleared over the next day or so. We will then be dealing with current information and that is what’s going to tell us where we are in terms of flattening the curve.”
Health officials in BC, released their own data predictions about what the outbreak will look like for the province in the coming weeks. The modelling showed that B.C.’s transmission rate had dropped down to 12 percent from 24 per cent.
The predictions are based BC’s COVID-19 growth rate compared to other regions like South Korea, northern Italy and China's Hubei province. The comparison allowed researchers to see how hospitals in British Columbia would be able to handle the spread of the virus.
B.C. showed a similar scenario to South Korea, and should the analysis be accurate, the province would have enough hospital beds and ventilators to sustain the outbreak.
Dr. Tam warned that Canada is a “big country” however and that outcomes will likely vary greatly from provinces to province.
Dr. Suzanna Sicchia, an associate professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough acknowledged that the research on B.C.'s data is “promising.” However, she warned that we should be “very cautious in making any definitive claims and even more so when it comes to generalizing these findings to other provinces,”
The next two week will be crucial for health officials to get a sense for what protocols have been effective so far and what may need to be done in the future.
“To these ends, the experts will be watching to see if there is a decrease in the rate of new, confirmed cases,” Sicchia said.
“It’s going to be this week or the next week that we’re going to see a wave of people who are really sick,“ said Dr. Jeff Kwong, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto.
“We know there’s lots cases out there—most are mild—but how many of all these cases are going to be severe?” he said. “That’s what we’re going to start to see this week.”