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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A member of the Belmont Secondary School in Langford has tested positive for COVID-19, the Sooke School District announced Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Positive COVID-19 case identified at Belmont Secondary School in Langford

Other school members could’ve been exposed on April 20

The Art of Kindness youth arts exhibition opens May 5 at the Gallery by Sooke Arts Council. The exhibition runs through to May 16. (Contributed - Diane Moran)
Student artists explore the meaning of kindness

Sooke Arts Council hosts The Art of Kindness youth arts exhibition

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
BCCDC says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most Island Health areas

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The Sooke Regional Spotlight, presented by the Federation of B.C. Writers (FBCW), features readings by nine established and emerging Sooke Region authors. (Pixabay.com)
Sooke authors to shine in province-wide event

Nine local writers star in an online ‘spotlight’ presentation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial: Victim left to conclude out-of-court settlement on the day he disappeared

Trial of Richard Alexander in death of John Dillon Brown continues in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria

Most Read