A woman wearing a protective mask walks past a face mask mural during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Thursday, November 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past a face mask mural during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Thursday, November 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canada surpasses 300,000 COVID cases, more than 100,000 in past month

Canada could reach the 400,000 total case milestone by early December, if the current trajectory holds up

Canada reached a troubling milestone on Monday, surpassing 300,000 total COVID cases since the pandemic began earlier this year, and health experts are alarmed — but not surprised — by the rapid growth we’ve seen over the last few weeks.

The marker comes less than a month after the country reached 200,000 overall cases on Oct. 19. It took about four months for Canada to leap from 100,000 to 200,000, suggesting that even as some cases are being resolved, the spread is quickening.

Total COVID-19 cases are different from confirmed active cases. Canada had roughly 50,000 active cases as of Monday afternoon, while nearly 240,000 had recovered and more than 11,000 have died.

Caroline Colijn, an infectious disease modeller and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, said the growth trajectory is worrying.

“We’ve seen this with Europe and the U.K. and U.S., and now across Canada — the pattern is very consistent,” she said.

“This is something that can overwhelm the health-care systems in western democracies. And it can do it very rapidly.”

Colijn projected Canada would reach the 400,000 total case milestone by early December, if the current trajectory holds up.

Canada was averaging about 4,500 new daily cases over the past week, and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, said Friday that daily case counts may climb to more than 10,000 by early December.

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, says “widespread restrictions” are needed in order to prevent the skyrocketing spike projected by Colijn and other COVID modellers.

He said government and public health policymakers need to put forward clear, concise and aggressive measures, and continue to “emphasize that people really need to change their plans and minimize their in-person interactions.”

“Because it’s really only a matter of time — and we’re talking weeks, not months — before ICU’s become totally overwhelmed and are unable to provide even the most basic care to people,” he added.

While the jump from 100,000 total cases to 200,000 took place from June to October, a period that coincided with the large-scale re-opening of businesses and schools nationwide, Colijn said the more recent accelerated spike may signify more.

READ MORE: No mask mandate as B.C. breaks records with 1,959 new COVID cases, 9 deaths over weekend

She believes some people became complacent with pandemic restrictions in the final weeks of summer, and so they worried less when cases began rising in the fall among younger people who generally don’t get very sick.

The problem, however, is that COVID continued to spread, infecting more vulnerable people and putting hospitals in danger of reaching full capacities.

“People really relaxed, they went indoors and so that just accelerated the spread,” she said.

Some Canadians’ opinions on the dangers of COVID may be tainted by how relatively well the country handled the first wave, added Schwartz.

People were cautioned about overextending hospital resources back in March, and when the system wasn’t strained to the extent experts anticipated — largely because of early lockdown measures — some may have developed a false sense of security.

“It’s like Y2K, where we were told something big would happen and it didn’t,” Schwartz said.

“But seeing what’s going on now, with hospitals filling up across the country, ICU (admission) going up, and the rate of new infections continuing to accelerate, it’s extremely troublesome… And it is quite clear this (perspective) needs to change very rapidly.”

Dr. Andrew Boozary, the executive director of health and social policy at the University Health Network, says other factors contributing to community transmission need to be addressed.

It can be hard for someone to obey stay-at-home orders if they don’t have access to stable housing, he said. A low-income worker without paid sick leave, for example, may not be able to self-isolate with symptoms if it means missing out on a paycheck.

“We need to ensure that social policy protections can take place for prevention,” Boozary said.

“If we don’t do all these things, and do them in a way that’s coordinated, we’ll continue to keep lapsing.”

Canadians are entering what experts call a crucial period of the pandemic, with the Christmas holidays and winter season only six weeks away.

They say the escalating COVID-19 growth rate needs to be slowed in order to avoid reaching more grim milestones in the near future.

“Many of us have been worried about winter because of the inability of people to be outside and what that can mean,” Boozary said.

“This is not the place we want to be.”

READ MORE: Prenatal care remains key amid COVID, B.C. expert says, as U.S. studies show heightened risk

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

Advocate file image
Red Deer COVID cases continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(Photo from Highway 11 Functional Planning Study)
Public input wanted for Highway 11 improvement plan

Round 2 of public online engagement continues until March 10

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

A SAGA member (left) poses as Jessi Hanks (right) with Castle Restaurant puts up a safe space sticker to display on the restaurant’s front door. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
SAGA Wetaskiwin works with local businesses to display they are a safe space

The safe space stickers show that its a safe and inclusive space.

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta Appeal Court orders 3rd trial for parents in toddler’s meningitis death

Stephans were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for Ezekiel, who had meningitis when he died

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Most Read