THUNDER BAY - Canada is still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other countries around the world according to Public Health officials, but the steps taken today will mean the difference between thousands of deaths or hundreds of thousands.
The Public Health Agency of Canada released national COVID-19 models based on provincial data collected. The modeling uses forecasting models to predict the trajectory of the pandemic in the coming week and dynamic models to determine how it might unfold in the coming months.
“Canada still has an opportunity to control the pandemic and save lives,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer during a media briefing on Thursday. “We cannot prevent all the deaths, but we must prevent all deaths we can. We all play a role in what the future will hold in the COVID-19 trajectory.”
According to the data, Canada could see between 22,580 and 31,850 cases diagnosed by April 16, with between 500 and 700 deaths.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, the country could see 11,000 deaths with strong controls in place, while 300,000 Canadians would die with no controls.
The data collected for the modeling dates to April 8 and of the 18,447 cases at that time, there were 401 deaths, 1,118 hospitalizations, and 326 admissions to the ICU.
The data shows 94 per cent of cases are in four provinces, Ontario, B.C., Quebec, and Alberta, with 88 per cent of deaths in these four provinces, and 198 deaths in long-term care homes.
When compared to the rest of the world, Canada is considered to be in the early stages of the pandemic, which has allowed provinces to prepare and put better preventative measures into place.
Many countries already reached more than 500 cases before Canada saw any community spread, which allowed us to learn from the experiences of other nations and act early to slow the pandemic’s progression.
“It is important to be aware of the limitations and benefits of modelling,” Tam said. “Models are not crystal balls and we cannot predict the future with them. However, they do help us to plan and they tell us that our collective actions can have a direct and significant impact on the epidemic trajectory.”
Keeping the numbers as low as possible will involve strong epidemic control measures, such as a high degree of social distancing, identifying and isolating a high number of cases, and a high number of contacts traced and quarantined.
“We stand a really good chance of staying in that green zone if we continue everything we are doing now,” Tam said.
In terms of when these control measures might be lifted, Tam said it is still too early to say because Canada has not yet reached the peak of the pandemic.
“That is the question most Canadians are asking right now,” she said. “Again, we don’t know if we’ve reached a peak anywhere in Canada yet. It’s too early to tell. We have to look day by day. We don’t know if we pass the peak until retrospectively. We can’t let go of any of our public health measures.”
Tam added that it will need to be a very cautious approach so as not to reignite any kind of train of transmission of the disease, but everything we are doing now will help shorten that period of time.
“We are in a very critical time period,” Tam said. “Just remember what could happen if we don’t try really hard at this time. We have done pretty well in terms of restricted movement. But we can do better.”