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

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he’d been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

Police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Most Read