Daily new COVID-19 cases triple in past month; more schools hit
By The Canadian Press
By The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A dramatic tripling of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the past month, mostly among young people, prompted warnings on Wednesday that Canada is staring at a major second wave of the pandemic.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the country had seen an average of more than 1,100 new cases of the novel coronavirus a day this past week compared with about 380 a day in mid-August.
“Canada is at a crossroads with the COVID-19 epidemic trajectory,” Tam said. “Unless public health and individual protective measures are strengthened and we work together to slow the spread of the virus, the situation is on track for a big resurgence in a number of provinces.”
While the new cases were primarily among young adults, more than 400 schools in Quebec and another 153 in Ontario reported at least one case of the illness. The figures from the group COVID Ecoles Quebec and the Ontario government came as authorities seek ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 among younger people.
Data from Ontario show cases among those in their 20s have risen sharply in the past month, with one expert attributing the increase in part to the reopening of schools and universities.
In an effort to tackle the problem, several provinces and universities have warned of stiff fines for violating anti-COVID restrictions. However, Quebec said it would not allow police to enter homes without a warrant to break up gatherings that violate the measures.
In all, COVID has killed about 9,250 people in Canada, while the cumulative case count edged toward the 150,000 mark.
Quebec, with more than 69,000 cases, has accounted for about 48 per cent of the total cases but 63 per cent of the deaths. Ontario’s more than 48,000 reported cases account for 33 per cent nationally, and 31 per cent of fatalities
On Wednesday, Quebec reported 471 new cases. Another four reported deaths from the novel coronavirus brought the province’s total fatalities to 5,809.
Ontario, which has shown a steady increase in new cases since mid-August after months of declines, reported 335 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and another three deaths. Almost 70 per cent of the new cases were in people under the age of 40, the province’s health minister, Christine Elliott, said.
Concern is also mounting as more long-term care homes in Ontario, brutally hit by the virus earlier in the year, report outbreaks. Almost 70 per cent of fatalities have been among those aged 80 and older and another 27 per cent were 60 to 79 years of age.
While older people and those with underlying health conditions are generally more susceptible to severe illnesses from SARS-CoV-2, younger people can spread the contagious disease — often before showing any symptoms.
“The problem is that when there’s so much in the community, it can escalate into the populations with more vulnerability,” Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health in Ottawa, said on Wednesday.
Ontario data indicate the number of new cases among people in their 20s has reached similar levels to those seen among people in their 80s in mid-April. Along with school re-openings, Dr. Brian Ward, a professor of medicine at McGill University, cited bars and parties as key factors, along with a “general sense of invulnerability” among younger people.
“COVID fatigue also clearly plays a role,” Ward said.
The worrisome upward trend in new cases comes as the federal Liberal government prepared on Wednesday to lay out its plan to take on a second wave of COVID-19 as part of its speech from the throne. Public health officials have warned a return to strict lockdowns might be required to curb a pandemic resurgence.
Stringent lockdowns implemented in the spring caused unprecedented economic disruption, prompting the federal government to spend tens of billions of dollars on wage and other business supports as unemployment skyrocketed. Some of those spending programs, however, are set to end but the government has promised replacements.
– Colin Perkel
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.