Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths
TORONTO -- Canada has marked 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started.
The country reached the grim milestone on Tuesday, after Ontario reported an additional 17 deaths related to the disease.
Many younger Canadians succumbed to the disease in recent months, as the third COVID-19 wave overwhelmed hospitals, especially in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. But the majority of deaths have occurred in long-term care homes across the country. A March 2021 report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found that Canada had the worst record for COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes compared to other countries.
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The CIHI report states that between March 2020 and February 2021, more than 80,000 residents and staff of long-term care homes were infected, with outbreaks occurring in 2,500 care homes - resulting in 14,000 resident deaths.
In Ontario, a military report submitted to the province’s Long-Term Care Home Commission referenced “heartbreaking” and “horrifying” conditions leading to several deaths in two of the Toronto facilities the military assisted with during the initial stages of the pandemic.
MORE THAN JUST NUMBERS
For many grieving family or friends who died of COVID-19, it becomes important to remember the people behind the statistics and daily reports.
"I think it's very important that we get faces to these stories,” Halifax infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett told CTV National News. “These aren't cases, this isn't a population, these aren't the ‘COVID people,’ they're individual Canadians."
For the family of Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, who died in April of COVID-19 at 89 years-old, honouring their mother’s legacy has become paramount.
“She was extremely healthy, vibrant and had lots of plans for the future,” her daughter Leslie Douglas-Shaw told CTV National News.
Douglas-Yakimchuk, who was the first Black graduate of Nova Scotia’s school of nursing and was the recipient of the Order of Canada for her contributions as a mentor, organizer and leader, had an “extraordinary life,” her son Kendrick Douglas told CTV National News.
“From early on she’s done the nursing, she’s done the community work, she’s raised a family,” he said. “There’s not many stones her left unturned on her 89 years on Earth.”
Douglas credits his career as a human rights lawyer in Nova Scotia to his mother and fathers’ focus on faith, family and community – citing their commitment to social justice issues, “but back then it was just called doing the right thing,” he said.
Douglas-Yakimchuk had traveled back to Nova Scotia from Ontario last month as she believed she had a better chance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Soon after arriving she tested positive for COVID-19 and her condition worsened when she was hospitalized.
“She had all her faculties right to the very end,” Douglas said of his mother. “Even on the morning of, she waved to me…she was never afraid to die.”
Douglas-Shaw said her mother, who served as the first Black president of registered nurses in Nova Scotia, “instilled” in them the importance of staying close kit of a family – “I truly believe that’s what will help us in the days ahead.”
WILL WE EVER KNOW THE TRUE DEATH TOLL?
However, the actual death toll may be higher than what is currently being tallied.
Examination of “excess deaths,” which is when there are more deaths during a period of time than what would be expected, has been higher than the COVID-19 death tolls reported by provinces.
Previous analysis by Tara Moriarty, a professor of laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Toronto, found that Canada had more than 3,000 excess deaths during the first nine months of the pandemic that weren’t attributed to COVID-19.
Tracking and identifying every person who has died from COVID-19 is also extremely tricky, as people suspected of having COVID-19 can die before being tested, and a lack of resources means death investigations and autopsies can be scarce.
Analysis of deaths, excess or otherwise, may take Statistics Canada several years to compile.
THE HISTORY OF OTHER DEADLY PANDEMICS
Smallpox ravaged First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities when it first spread from French settlers in the 17th century. Entire populations were decimated, some losing 75 to 90 per cent of their communities to the disease, which was sometimes purposefully spread from colonists, or associated starvation.
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It’s estimated 20,000 Canadians died in the 1847 typhus epidemic, and the Spanish Flu which struck Canada between 1918 to 1920, killed approximately 55,000 people, most of them young adults.
Nearly 25,000 people in Canada have died from HIV/AIDS over the past 40 years, according to advocacy group CATIE. The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 resulted in 44 deaths.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Ryan Flanagan and Jackie Dunham