The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed Canada’s total case count past the 200,000 mark on Monday as tougher health restrictions took effect in some regions facing a surge in infections.
The latest numbers from Saskatchewan lifted the national tally over the bleak milestone as the province reported 66 new cases of the novel coronavirus, though other provinces reported significantly more new cases.
The development came just over four months after Canada reached the 100,000-case threshold.
The bulk of the country’s case load has been concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, though numbers have been surging in much of the country in recent weeks.
The 200,000-case milestone isn’t all that significant in and of itself but it does provide an opportunity to examine how the country is doing in grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Barry Pakes, a public health and preventative medicine physician with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Canada saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in late January and marked 100,000 cases in mid-June, about five months later.
That it took almost as long to double the caseload to 200,000 suggests public health measures slowed the virus’s spread to some degree in that time, Pakes said.
“That’s not how infectious diseases work - they double, and they go straight up on an exponential line, and when we put in proper public health measures we’re able to dull that somewhat, so I think that’s a testament to what we’ve been doing so far,” he said.
At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that Canada is in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, and milestones such as this one can sometimes serve as a reminder not to let our guard down, he said.
“The problem arises when we rest on our laurels and I think we shouldn’t do that, but I think we can be sort of hopeful that we won’t see some of the numbers and some of the really big societal effects that have been seen in the U.S. or Europe,” he said.
“But it does remain to be seen.”
Quebec continued to lead in new daily cases, reporting 1,038 cases and six more deaths Monday - the fourth consecutive day it has seen more than 1,000 new infections.
Ontario, meanwhile, reported 704 new cases and four new deaths.
The province has reinstated stricter health measures in four regions - Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa - and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor, recommended against traditional Halloween activities in those areas.
The tighter rules, which include closing gyms and movie theaters and barring indoor dining in restaurants or bars, kicked in for York Region on Monday but took effect earlier this month in the other three hot spots.
More preventative measures on the way?
Williams said that when daily case counts began to rise again in September, the province predicted it would see new infections double every 10 to 12 days, which would have led to daily numbers in the 1,200 to 1,400 range by now. He noted that at the time, the City of Toronto also predicted seeing its cases double every six days if no additional steps were taken.
“Neither of us, fortunately, have seen that. Measures have been taken, they’ve dropped that down,” he said Monday.
The daily case numbers were slow to come down in the first wave but they did drop over time, “and I think we can do that again,” he said.
Manitoba reported 80 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, nearly two thirds of them in Winnipeg, as new restrictions on gatherings and businesses took effect in that city. The new rules limit gatherings to five people and force casinos and bars to close, and will be reviewed in two weeks.
Meanwhile, the federal government announced Monday that limits on travel between Canada and the United States will remain in place until Nov. 21.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020.