Tuesday May 11th is Census Day. Every five years, Canadians are invited to participate in the census and provide information that will be used to plan programs and services like daycare, schools, hospitals, public transportation and emergency services. This year, the data are more important than ever. Information gathered from Canadians will help to assess how COVID-19 has affected communities across the country as we chart our path to recovery.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada has redesigned the 2021 census approach to ensure that everyone can safely and securely participate in this vital national exercise. Options to complete the census strive for a contact-free approach where every reasonable attempt will be made to collect the information without coming into contact with respondents. The safest ways to complete the census are online, on paper, or over the phone. Only if these options are not available, will an in-person visit be conducted in accordance with public health guidelines.
The 2021 Census will help us better understand the impact of the pandemic for different population groups and communities across the country, showing how their situation has changed since the 2016 Census. Federal and provincial governments use local-level Census population, age, income and housing data to determine who is most vulnerable to the current health and economic crisis. In addition, vaccine allocations to provinces and territories have been conducted on a per capita basis, based on census data. We know that the pandemic is affecting all Canadians in many different ways, so please have your say! Complete your census today if you haven’t already done so, while enjoying the 2021 Census soundtrack celebrating Canadian musical talent!
As 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. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing Canadians with regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety across the country. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to reduce infection rates, while vaccination programs expand for the protection of all Canadians.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,273,169 cases of COVID-19, including 81,218 active cases and 24,529 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that a large majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. Multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, with unique advantages, are authorised for use in Canada. As vaccine delivery continues to ramp up, there is increasing optimism that widespread and lasting immunity can be achieved through COVID-19 vaccination. Benefits are being seen among groups targeted for priority vaccination and as vaccine coverage increases across Canada, we can expect further benefits to protect more Canadians over the coming weeks and months. As of yesterday, provinces and territories have administered over 15.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and are further expanding programs as supply ramps up at an accelerated pace.
However, as COVID-19 activity is elevated or increasing in many jurisdictions, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating and individual precautions are important everywhere. The latest national-level data show the decline in national case counts has slowed to a less than 2% decrease over the past week, with an average of 7,749 cases being reported daily (Apr 30-May 6). For the week of April 25-May 1, there were on average of 133,695 tests completed daily across Canada, of which 6.1% were positive for COVID-19, a decrease from 6.6% the week prior.
Elevated infection rates continue to impact lagging COVID-19 severity indicators, particularly in areas with sustained high levels of disease activity. These persistently high numbers of severe and critical illnesses have placed a prolonged and heavy strain on the health system and healthcare workforce. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,190 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Apr 30-May 6) representing a 4.6% decrease over last week. This includes, on average 1,454 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), which is 2.3% higher than the previous week. Although the mortality trend has recently leveled off, with a 7-day average of 46 deaths reported daily (Apr 30-May 6), continued high rates of infection and still rising critical care admissions could negatively impact this trend.
While COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those under 60 years of age. Serious illness can occur at any age and evidence indicates that variants of concern can be associated with more severe illness and increased risk of death. In addition, circulation of COVID-19 in younger, more mobile and socially-connected adults is an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations and settings. Variants of concern (VOCs) now represent a majority of COVID-19 cases in Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant now reported in all provinces and territories and accounting for over 95% of VOCs sequenced to date. As this variant spreads more quickly and has been associated with increased severity, and as vaccines may be less effective against other variants, such as the P.1 and B.1.351 variants, it is even more important to remain vigilant with all available measures to suppress spread.
As vaccine eligibility expands, Canadians are urged to get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated as vaccines become available to them. However, regardless of our vaccination status, Canadians are urged to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer, even as we’re beginning to see the positive impacts of COVID-19 vaccines: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces, indoors or outdoors, with people from outside of your immediate household).
For more information regarding the risks and benefits of vaccination, I encourage Canadians to reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as Canada.ca and Immunize.ca. Working together, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health and other health professionals across the country are closely monitoring vaccine safety, effectiveness and optimal use to adapt approaches. As the science and situation evolves, we are committed to providing clear and evidence-informed guidance in order to keep everyone in Canada safe and healthy.
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, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.
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