New modelling released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests the number of daily COVID-19 cases could more than triple to 30,000 if people increase their contacts at a time when there’s widespread community transmission.
The report also projects that if Canadians simply maintain the current level of contact they have with people outside their households, case counts will also rise to roughly 13,000 a day from 7,900 now.
The modellers said, based on current case counts, Canada “remains on a rapid growth trajectory,” with roughly 2,000 more people expected to die over the next 10 days as the country approaches the threshold of 20,000 people dead from the virus. As many as 100,000 more people could contract the virus over the next week and a half, PHAC said.
“Quick, strong and sustained measures are needed to interrupt rapid growth and maintain COVID-19 control,” PHAC said in its report. “Reducing COVID-19 activity is urgently needed as rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines begins.”
During a news conference in Ottawa, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the vaccine rollout, which is now protecting priority groups of high-risk Canadians, will not have a big impact on the numbers in the short term.
“In terms of the national projections and the transmission in communities, you’re not going to see that in the initial months, which is why I think our message … is absolutely get on with the public health measures,” she said.
“Do all of those things, don’t do non-essential travel. All that really counts. It works. And when you can suppress that projection, the vaccines have a longer runway.”
Data to determine impact of vaccine rollout
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said government and external experts are working on data to determine the impact of vaccine rollouts on the numbers mid and long-term.
“But at the present time, it’s really difficult to say. There are so many factors involved. Even today, we’re seeing issues in terms of vaccine supply, how vaccines are being rolled out across the country,” he said.
“There’s other factors in terms of the increasing rates of infection in various parts of the country. So there are many different factors in play.”
Right now, Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec are the provinces reporting the highest infection rates per 100,000 people.
Some 10 months into this pandemic, long-term care homes continue to report hundreds of daily cases.
There are currently more than 400 outbreaks nationwide, which is expected to push hospitalization rates higher still. Alberta and Manitoba are reporting the highest rates of hospitalization per 100,000 people.
PHAC said COVID-19-related deaths are steadily rising and may soon exceed levels seen during the first peak.