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

Just Posted

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

Sidney Pier was one of two sites in Sidney as the Netflix series Maid shot in Sidney in late 2020. The show starring Margaret Qualley was one of 38 productions shooting in Greater Victoria. (Bob Orchard/Submitted)
Head of Greater Victoria film commission warns of lost economic opportunity

Kathleen Gilbert said without full funding, region will not be able to attract productions

A senior official with Victoria International Airport says the airport is still researching COVID-19 testing regimes but predicts testing and screening will remain part of the aviation industry even after vaccines have rolled out. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria International Airport researching COVID-19 testing options

Senior official predicts ‘screening and testing will be around long after the vaccination rollout’

Rethinking shopping for a more resilient future. Black Press file photo.
Rethinking shopping for a more resilient future

The last year was a wake up call. The environmental crisis, systemic… Continue reading

Ucluelet local Geoff Johnson snapped this photo of a Risso’s dolphin that washed up near Chesterman Beach in Tofino on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Geoff Johnson photo)
Washed up Risso’s dolphin offers glimpse into “whole other world” near Tofino

“It’s like a UFO crash landed and you can come look at it”

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

(Google Maps)
Sophisticated glass-removal crime returns to downtown Victoria

Several businesses on Fort Street targeted overnight, say police

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Drisht Preet (DP) Singh was excited to be opening the first Canco Supermarket in Saltair. (Photo by Emily Weeks)
Canco’s first supermarket opens in Saltair

Reasonable prices being matched with exceptional customer service

From left to right: Geena Haiyupis, Deborah Potter and Moira Barney stand beside the canoe. It will be painted by ADSS students in the new year. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Alberni high school students paddling forward together

Canoe artwork will hang above the school’s breakfast room

Cowichan Bay tennis player Grace Haugen takes part in an exhibition at the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club in 2019, which also included Canadian legends Frank Dancevic and Daniel Nestor. Haugen has committed to further her career at the University of Montana starting next fall. (Citizen file)
Vancouver Island tennis player prepares for next step in her journey

Cowichan Bay’s Grace Haugen commits to University of Montana

<em>Chinook Salmon: Breaking Through</em> by B.C.’s Mark Hobson was selected among 13 entries as the winner of the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Stamp Competition.
Stained-glass lighting casts a win to B.C. salmon artist

Painting of chinook is Mark Hobson’s third win in annual contest

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

Most Read