Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Canada’s top doctor is warning of the increasing pressure placed on hospitals as COVID-19 case counts rise in different parts of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Canada’s top doctor is warning of the increasing pressure placed on hospitals as COVID-19 case counts rise in different parts of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VIDEO: Tam warns of increasing pressure on hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

There has been an average of more than 1,400 people in hospital each day in the past week

The rising tide of COVID-19 infections across much of Canada threatens to swamp a hospital system already under strain, the country’s top doctor warned Saturday amid case numbers that continued to set records in long-standing virus hot spots.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam described the situation in Western Canada, Quebec and Ontario as “worrisome” hours after the central provinces posted new single-day highs for provincial case counts. The soaring numbers there and beyond, she contended, have potential to overtax the country’s hospitals.

“This situation … it is putting pressure on local healthcare resources,” she said in a statement. “Hospitals are being forced to make the difficult decision to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in areas of the country to manage (increases).”

But in Steinbach, Man., where a day earlier the president of the province’s nurses union said nurses reported having to triage patients in their cars at the local hospital because of a lack of space in the Emergency Department, a large group gathered for an anti-mask rally.

Enhanced restrictions came into effect in Manitoba on Thursday barring social gatherings outside immediate household members.

Lewis Weiss, a local reeve who spoke at the rally but was not an organizer, said he followed the rules by keeping well away from everyone else but still received a $1,296 ticket from a provincial official for disobeying a public health order.

“We’re not protesting masks. We’re protesting the way they went about it,” said Weiss. “They’re closing the little stores in the malls but the big Walmart can stay open.”

The province said in an email that it appeared from social media posts that there was enforcement at the rally, but that officers were still at the scene and it couldn’t confirm who was handing out tickets.

RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said police partnered at the rally with provincial health officials, who she said were there to “monitor and issue fines.”

“RCMP used a measured approach during today’s event and will be working with Manitoba Public Health to further investigate breaches of the Public Health Order,” Courchaine said in an email.

Tam said the number of people with severe cases of COVID-19 continues to increase with a daily average of more than 1,400 people being treated in hospitals over the past week.

That includes a daily average of 280 people in critical care and 55 deaths reported each day over the past seven days, she added.

But Tam warned that those numbers lag behind overall case increase figures by one to two weeks.

“The concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity,” she said.

Tam said Western provinces saw a weekly increase in daily hospitalization between 24 to 50 per cent compared to last week.

While Ontario and Quebec saw lower increases, those provinces continue to have the highest numbers of people in hospital, she added, saying flu season is also straining hospital capacity.

“This is why it is so important for people of all ages to maintain public health practices that keep respiratory infection rates low,” she said.

Tam urged Canadians to follow public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the current pace, it is estimated that there will be 10,000 cases daily by early December, she said.

“What comes next for us this fall and winter is for every one of us to determine, through our decisions and actions,” she said.

Tam’s warnings come as Ontario and Quebec set new single-day records for new cases in the past 24 hours.

Ontario recorded 1,581 new diagnoses and 20 new deaths on Saturday, while Quebec posted 1,448 cases and 25 deaths linked to the virus.

Manitoba added 237 to its case count, along with multiple deaths tied to a long-term care facility in Winnipeg that’s the subject of a provincial investigation.

Saskatchewan reported 308 cases on Saturday, though said the figure was inflated by a testing lull triggered by a snowstorm that kept prospective patients at home. The sharp spike comes a day after the province’s daily tally dipped to 81, a low not seen for days.

Nunavut, meanwhile, reported four more cases, bringing the territory’s overall count to eight.

The surging figures also come as Canadians across the country prepare to start celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among many political leaders urging celebrants to recognize the holiday virtually this year in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“I know celebrations will look different this year,” he said in a video statement posted to social media. “But the message at the heart of the day – that light, hope, and knowledge will always triumph over darkness, evil, and ignorance – remains the same, and it has never been more important.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s COVID-19 wave continues with 617 new cases

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

A sign is seen this past summer outside Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in First Nation completes second round of vaccinations

A total of 26 people have since recovered from COVID-19 after having tested positive

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Commercial tenants at the Williams Lake Regional Airport have been granted an additional six-month rent reprieve. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Continuing rent relief for Williams Lake Airport tenants considered

City council discussed the option during a committee of the whole meeting

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 8 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

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

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Most Read