Canada has a higher coronavirus death rate than previously predicted, even though the country has a growth rates slower that most countries – including the United States – according to a new snapshot and updated modeling Tuesday.
The epidemic growth rate was doubling every three days, but now has slowed to doubling every 16, Canadian public health officials say. But Canada is now reporting nearly 3,000 coronavirus deaths, much higher than originally predicted.
“We are seeing the tragic paradox of the epidemic playing out,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, during a presentation of the new modeling Tuesday.
“As the epidemic comes under control, and the growth of cases slows, the severe outcomes and deaths continue to accrue, as Covid-19 takes a heavy toll among highly susceptible populations,” said Dr. Tam.
Less than two weeks ago, Canadian officials had predicted a case fatality rate of about 2.2%. It now stands at 5.5% with hundreds more deaths possible in the next week alone.
However, health experts have cautioned that fatality rates may be lower than reported because they do not always count asymptomatic or mild cases.
‘Soldiers taking care of seniors’
Canada is currently dealing with hundreds of outbreaks in long-term care homes throughout the country, and hundreds of those elderly and vulnerable residents have died. Government statistics released Tuesday show that 79% of deaths across the country are related to outbreaks in care centers.
“Outbreaks in long-term care and seniors’ homes are driving epidemic growth in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia and are responsible for the majority of all deaths in Canada,” said Dr. Tam.
In response to the outbreaks and requests from provinces, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that thousands of soldiers would be deployed to long term care homes to support seniors.
“This is not a long-term solution. In Canada we shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors,” Trudeau said during his daily press conference in Ottawa Thursday.
‘We might lose the progress we’ve made’
The virus is clearly slowing down in Canada with a marked improvement in transmission rates. Earlier in the pandemic, each infected person was likely to infect 2.19 people, now that rate of transmission has slowed to only one.
Some regions are issuing guidelines and dates for reopening, like Quebec where elementary schools will open in phases beginning in May. Trudeau said he is collaborating with provincial leaders, but that there must be enough personal protective equipment throughout the country before it is safe for businesses and workplaces to reopen.
While Canada was flattening the curve, Trudeau said distancing measures and some closures would remain in place for some time.
“We’re in the middle of the most serious public health emergency Canada has ever seen and if we lift measures too quickly, we might lose the progress we’ve made,” said Trudeau during a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday.
CNN’s Sheena Jones contributed to this report.