Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, noting the uptick in new COVID cases over the past few days issued a statement urging Canadian to double down on social distancing and other health measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.
“There have been 136,141 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,170 deaths. 88% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested an average of 47,806 people daily over the past week with 1.1% testing positive. Over the past week, an average of 633 cases are now being reported daily across Canada, which is more than 20% higher than last week as this disease activity indicator continues a slow and steady increase nationally.
Canadians have become adept at effective public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, namely maintaining 2-metres physical distancing from people outside of our close contact bubble, washing our hands frequently and using good cough and sneeze etiquette, which is aided by the wearing of non-medical masks or face coverings, as and where recommended. Our challenge now is to guard against the fatigue that can lead us to relax these personal precautions. At the same time, as we shift more of our activities indoors, we will need to increase our awareness of COVID-19 risk factors in reopened settings.
Along with the continued increase in daily case counts over the past several weeks, outbreaks are being reported in a greater variety of settings, including private social gatherings and celebrations, community settings and indoor events/public settings, with a large number of exposures and infections linked to single gatherings/events. This is a reminder that just because you may know the people attending an event outside of your household/close-contacts bubble, it doesn’t mean there is a reduced risk of COVID-19. In fact, it is in these familiar settings where we may be most apt to let our guard down, increasing our risk of infection and unintentionally spreading the virus to others in our homes, workplaces and communities.
While outbreaks in Long-Term Care homes are currently limited in terms of number of cases, this is an area of concern where we must continue to strengthen measures to prevent introductions and control spread through rapid detection and robust infection prevention and control. Likewise, there have been cases and clusters in educational settings in recent weeks as schools and universities have reopened. Spread in these settings is a reflection of transmission in the community and as such, cases are not unexpected. However, another important reason to keep the infection rate low in the community is to prevent spread into these and other public settings that could necessitate targeted restrictions to control transmission where the virus is surging.
Keeping to your close contacts bubble is safest, but when going to public spaces it is important to assess your personal risks and check that there are controls in place to reduce spread of the virus and continue to follow good public health practices.