Canada on track for 20K new COVID-19 cases a day without behaviour change: modelling

OTTAWA — New national pandemic modelling set to be released on Friday shows that on nearly every metric, the COVID-19 crisis is worsening, according to a copy of projections obtained by CTV News.

In the short term, by the end of the month Canada is projected to hit between 366,500 to 378,600 total cases, and between 11,870 to 12,120 deaths by Nov. 30.

The projections also indicate that if Canadians increase their current number of contacts, the country could see upwards of 60,000 cases a day, and even still under current rates of contacts into December the country could be recording 20,000 cases a day.

The modelling shows that instead of flattening the curve, national daily case counts are “increasing significantly,” and rapid growth is occurring in several provinces because each new case in Canada is spreading the infection to more than one other person.

Prime Minister held a closed-door meeting with his opposition counterparts where they received a briefing from Canada’s top public health officials Thursday afternoon, getting a first look at modelling projections.

“Canada is facing a continued rise in cases and that it is critical for Canadians to keep following all public health measures, including physical distancing, proper handwashing, and limiting close contacts,” said the Prime Minister’s Office in a statement summarizing the meeting Trudeau had.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada the numbers have not been finalized, but as Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam signalled earlier in the week, the updated modelling is set to be publicly released on Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET.

As of the previous round of national modelling in late October, the advice to Canadians was to cut their contacts by 25 per cent in order to curb the spread. Since then, case counts continued to set records rather than flatten as hoped, forcing new rounds of restrictions.

Based on the modelling presentation prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada for tomorrow’s announcement, more high-risk adults and seniors are contracting the virus at higher rates; the number and size of outbreaks are increasing including in long-term care homes and Indigenous communities; and hospitalizations and deaths are increasing.

Signalling a possible shift in the federal government’s communications strategy, Trudeau’s office has given notice that Friday morning Trudeau will be delivering an address to Canadians about COVID-19 from Rideau Cottage, his residence where he delivered nearly daily press conferences over the first few months of the health crisis.

OPPOSITION LEADERS RAISE ALARM

Following the meeting with Trudeau and the doctors, opposition party leaders began raising alarms. Without offering specifics, the comments made indicated they were concerned with the path this country is on.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said she’ll be calling for an emergency debate in the House of Commons to discuss what more the federal government can and should be doing to help get the pandemic under control.

“What I heard was very sobering,” Paul said in an interview on CTV’s Power Play.

“This is an incredibly urgent situation, it is one that we do not have a handle on,” she said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that what “struck” him from the meeting is that nearing a year into Canada being aware of the threat of the novel coronavirus, “we as a country are worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic.”

O’Toole is now calling on Trudeau to deploy rapid testing and at-home tests; find more effective targeted measures to protect and isolate people with COVID-19; explain how, when, and where Canadians will be able to get a vaccine; and share more information about the locations and sources of community spread.

“Things are looking tough,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on his way out of the meeting in the prime minister’s West Block office.

The PMO statement said that Trudeau “emphasized that the health and safety of all Canadians transcends political interests, and every party must work together to protect Canadians from COVID-19.”

DOSE DISTRIBUTION CONFUSION

The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that vaccines, long-term care, schools, rapid testing, and travel between provinces and territories came up during their meeting on Tuesday.

It was anticipated that the conversation around vaccine distribution would come up during Trudeau’s sit down with opposition leaders, as preliminary but promising news from both Moderna and Pfizer has caused a whirlwind of questions about how many vaccine doses the federal government will be sending to the provinces and when that will happen.

Despite officials in both Ontario and Alberta staking claims to a specific number of early vaccine doses, federal officials continue to say it’s far too early to have the details nailed down about how many vaccines each province will receive once approved by Health Canada, and how quickly doses could get out to each province once that happens.

“There are many ongoing preliminary discussions around our plan to… roll out vaccines and deliver them across the country. We know that there is still uncertainty as to when those vaccines are going to be manufactured, they are still all in various stages of trials and as much as have signed contracts around delivery dates, we know there are many uncertainties still to come,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday.

“The focus that we have as a government is on ensuring that as those vaccines arrive, and are approved safely by health authorities, that they get delivered as quickly as possible to vulnerable Canadians as a priority and then to all Canadians. We’re working closely with the provinces in terms of establishing what those are, but these discussions are still at a preliminary stage.”

On Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines during the first three months of 2021, with more to follow after that.

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play Wednesday, Health Parliamentary Secretary Darren Fisher went as far as to say he was “not aware” of where Elliot got her numbers from.

Asked on Thursday whether Elliot was wrong to come out with the figures she did, Trudeau would only say that there are “many numbers circulating” and it’s too early to confirm, despite Ontario Premier Doug Ford backing Elliot up.

Ford said that the figures his government shared came from senior federal officials, though sources in the Prime Minister’s Office have told CTV News that Ottawa has just asked the provinces for rough estimates of how many priority residents they’d like to vaccinate with the first round of vaccines.

On her way out of Thursday’s meeting, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that: “with everything, we work out an agreement with provinces and territories about how best to equitably share the resource, whether it’s personal protective equipment, or most recently rapid testing, and that’s exactly what we’ll do with vaccines as well. That work is underway and we’ll have more to say when it’s completed.”

With files from CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver and Nicole Bogart

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