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

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ district administration centre. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district gets started on new budget amid unknowns

Ministry’s per-student funding increase doesn’t fully cover pay raises for teachers and support staff

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo school district reports COVID-19 case at Fairview Elementary

April 9 exposure the fourth case reported in SD68 since spring break

The old career resource centre, formerly Quennell School, was demolished last week. (Photo courtesy Erik Warners)
Old career centre and school demolished in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter

School district says building was decaying and was unsuitable for use

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s two new pumper trucks, slated to be delivered in the fall, will have battery-powered idle-reduction technology. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s newest fire trucks will come with idle-reduction technology

Pumper trucks arriving from U.S.-based manufacturer will use battery power to save fuel

A raccoon prowls near a porch in north Nanaimo last fall. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Attack on dog shows raccoons can be nasty creatures

We had to take our black lab to the emergency vet for treatment, says letter writer

The old career resource centre, formerly Quennell School, was demolished last week. (Photo courtesy Erik Warners)
Old career centre and school demolished in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter

School district says building was decaying and was unsuitable for use

AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available at B.C. pharmacies outside the Lower Mainland, as of Friday, April 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Immunization program expands to five Nanaimo pharmacies

Residents 55-65-year-old can get their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Firefighters, including those from Cranberry volunteer department, are battling a blaze in the Nanaimo River Road area. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Dwelling destroyed, two taken to hospital after Nanaimo River Road blaze

Firefighers arrived to find dwelling and garage fully engulfed in flame at property south of Nanaimo

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Most Read