Coronavirus spread slowing in Canada; death rate rises due to long-term care fatalities

Canadian public health officials initially underestimated how deadly the coronavirus would be in long-term care homes and have revised their calculations in new modelling numbers shared on Tuesday.

But chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the data also shows Canada is slowing the overall spread of the first wave of the virus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus ‘travel bubble’ idea gains steam but wouldn’t work for Canada, U.S.

“We are making clear progress to slow the spread and bring the epidemic under control,” she said in a briefing with journalists to explain the new modelling data.

“The doubling of the cases went from [happening every] three to five days last time we spoke to now about every 16.”

One factor in that, Tam said, is the fact that infected individuals are not infecting as many others.

When she briefed journalists on April 9, each infected person had spread the coronavirus to 2.19 other individuals, while the current transmission rate sees the virus spread to just over one other person.

However, while the fatality rate was initially calculated as roughly 2.2 per cent, Tam said the rate has now been revised to 5.5 per cent in light of a spike in deaths in long-term care homes.

Overall, the deaths in long-term care homes account for 79 per cent of total deaths in Canada.

READ MORE: Nearly half of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities

Tam cautioned the fatality rate could change again as the virus spread ebbs and flows.

“Until the epidemic is over, you actually don’t know the true case fatality rate,” she said.

“These are dynamic until you actually get to the bottom of the epidemic.”

0:51Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau cautions Quebec on reopening economy: ‘We’re not there yet’

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau cautions Quebec on reopening economy: ‘We’re not there yet’

Prior to the release of the data on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cautioned that although the modelling shows the restrictions locking down the country are working, that doesn’t mean the danger has passed.

“In many parts of the country, the curve has flattened,” Trudeau said during his daily news conference outside Rideau Cottage.

“But we’re not out of the woods yet.”

READ MORE: Live updates — Coronavirus in Canada

The update comes nearly three weeks after the Public Health Agency of Canada first released projections.

Those projections, released April 9, laid out three possible scenarios for how the pandemic might unfold in Canada based on strong, weak and no control measures for containing the virus, based on the data that officials had at the time.

Those first projections suggested that between 11,000 and 22,000 people could die from the virus in a “best-case scenario” where 2.5 to five per cent of the population is infected.

READ MORE: ‘Incomplete’ data for Canada hurts ability to model pandemic, scientists say

At that time, federal officials stated that the path ahead depended heavily on Canadians’ collective actions.

“The same holds true today,” Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Separately from the federal government, some provinces have also released their own models.

As of Monday evening, there were 48,489 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the country, including 2,707 deaths linked to the virus.

The new modelling data released on Tuesday did not alter the long-term projections for the spread of the virus in Canada, maintaining projections of between 11,000 to 22,000 deaths by the end of next year.

It did provide a forecast for where things could be by May 5.

That data suggests the country could see total deaths hit between 3,277 and 3,883 by next week, with 53,196 to 66,835 total confirmed cases.

Canada has reported 49,029 confirmed cases and 2,769 deaths so far.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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