Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Long-term care deaths surged in COVID-19 first wave, Tam hopeful it won’t repeat

Canada ranked 79th out of 201 countries in terms of total cases per million population

Long-term care deaths accounted for nearly 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada during the first wave of the pandemic, but the country’s chief public health officer thinks a repeat can be avoided amid a new spike in cases.

A snapshot of Canada’s COVID-19 situation during the first wave of the pandemic was outlined in Dr. Theresa Tam’s annual report released Wednesday, one day after Canada passed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“Everything has been done to prevent the repeat of what we’re seeing in the first wave,” Tam said, adding that more support and stricter rules are in place in facilities housing the country’s most vulnerable population.

“I think what we have seen is there has been a number of best practices, infection prevention control practices within long-term care facilities, and they have to be followed diligently.”

Tam said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities involving groups such as seniors, essential service workers, agriculture sector employees, women and racialized Canadians.

She says those groups are disadvantaged in Canadian society and were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“The virus didn’t create new inequities in our society,” Tam said. “It exposed them and underscored the impact of our social policies on our health status.”

She said strong leadership, firm data and sustained funding for public health are all keys going forward in fighting the pandemic.

“One thing that is difficult for public health is to advocate for sustained investments and avoid the sort of boom and bust,” Tam said.

“Public health is invisible when there are no cases, when we’ve done our job, so it’s very difficult to advocate for public health capacity when you’ve prevented things from happening.”

READ MORE: Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The country’s hardest hit provinces remain Quebec and Ontario, with Premier Doug Ford saying the numbers Wednesday were trending in the right direction with 834 new cases and five additional deaths.

Quebec, which has seen new infections stabilize in recent weeks, added 929 new infections and 17 new deaths.

Tam said while the younger age groups have been driving infections during the second wave, the cases are starting to enter long-term care homes. However, most outbreaks have been smaller than the first time around.

COVID-19 hit Canada’s long-term care homes hardest during the first wave of the pandemic. The Public Health Agency notes that as of August, Canada had one of the highest fatality rates among long-term care home residents out of the 37 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Tam’s report noted that globally, Canada ranked 79th out of 201 countries in terms of total cases per million population and 26th for total deaths per million population, driven mainly by the situation in long-term care.

Also, people working in essential services were at higher risk of exposure, with health-care workers accounting for 19 per cent of national cases as of mid-August and outbreaks reported in 23 agricultural workplaces during the same time frame.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada said the more than 7,000 excess deaths recorded during March and June are comparable to COVID-19 figures from the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database — the official source of death-related data in Canada.

The statistics agency said the number of deaths dipped to normal levels in July but has surged again during the first 10 days of October, surpassing monthly totals for August and September and suggesting Canada will see an increase in excess deaths this month.

Excess mortality, more deaths than usual during a period of time, is an important measure in understanding both the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it shows the majority of excess can be accounted for by COVID-19,” Tam said. “But there could be other excess mortality, sometimes as a result of some of the measures that we’ve put in.”

Tam’s report noted that opioid deaths also increased, with evidence suggesting the pandemic has created a setback as border restrictions led to a more toxic illegal drug supply.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

CanadaCoronavirusSeniors

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

Just Posted

Canadian author Paul Young, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel, the Shack, will join Vernon-based foundation, the Emily Dahl Foundation, for a Fireside Chat event in June 2021. (YouTube)
Bestselling author to be keynote presenter at Vernon event

The Shack author Paul Young to join with Emily Dahl Foundation for summer Fireside Chat

North Okanagan Minor Hockey Association coach Rory Taber (left) accepts donations of new equipment for some local players from former NHL player Jason Podollan and his Up My Hockey brand, courtesy of Bauer Hockey. (Photo submitted)
Ex-NHLer sets up North Okanagan kids with new gear

Jason Podollan teams up with Bauer Hockey to help out some worthy families with new hockey equipment

Kelowna RCMP precinct. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Mountie transferred, fined after pointing gun at another officer

Const. Kristine Roesler argued she handled the gun safely and did it in the spirit of ‘dark humour’

The exhibit is set to open on Nov. 13. (File)
UBCO recieves $1.9M for cleantech hub

UBCO campus will help develop and commercialize clean technologies and create up to 50 well-paying jobs

Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file
Kelowna International Airport saw 64% decrease in passenger numbers in 2020

The airport said these numbers haven’t been seen since 1997

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Carol Loiselle filed a discrimination and harassment complaint with the B.C. Humans Right Tribunal in 2018 after working at Windward Software Systems, Inc. in Penticton for eight years. (Google maps photo)
Penticton woman wins part of her B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case

Carol Loiselle alleges she faced years of discrimination, harassment at Windward Software Systems

Salmon Arm Recreation notified the public of a COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm pool on Jan. 14. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Salmon Arm pool

Salmon Arm Recreation became aware of the virus exposure on Jan. 13.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

The RCMSAR rescue boat did double duty as an icebreaker to evacuate a man in Seymour Arm who was in need of medical attention on Jan. 10. (RCMSAR Station #106/Facebook)
RCMSAR boat breaks ice on Shuswap Lake to reach man in need of medical attention

The Jan. 10 call saw the rescue boat ramming through ice to reach shore in Seymour Arm

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Most Read