Mapping out Canada's COVID-19 hotspots: new modelling shows where cases are rising
TORONTO -- A map released by the federal government Tuesday as part of new COVID-19 modelling data shows that over the last 14 days, the rise in cases has been far from even across the country, with several hotspots bumping up numbers nationwide.
Canada has been experiencing a worrying uptick in new cases recently, leading federal health officials to recommend that we re-adopt earlier, more strict levels of health precautions.
Dr. Theresa Tam stopped short of calling it a second wave on Tuesday, noting that it’s too early to tell whether cases will continue trending upwards or go back down, but cautioned that a new jump in cases could “overwhelm our health system capacity and significantly impact social and economic systems as well.”
- Read more: Canada 'at a crossroads': COVID-19 will keep spreading if behaviours don't change, Tam says
According to the latest modelling data, the hotspots across Canada are largely centred around metropolitan areas, but also, in some instances, include regions that saw far lower case levels in the first wave of the pandemic.
WHERE ARE THE NEW CASES?
The map of recent case data shows that the three territories in Canada’s north have had zero new cases over the past two weeks, along with Labrador, northern Manitoba, and some regions of northern Quebec.
The Atlantic provinces have also fared well, with regions ranging from zero cases to four for every 100,000 people.
The darkest regions of the map, which represented areas with 50 to 99 new cases per 100,000 people, were northern Alberta, the Edmonton region, several regions around Quebec City and up the St. Lawrence River, the Gatineau region directly across the river from Ottawa, and in B.C. the region around Vancouver.
One difference from the first wave is that across the country, more cases are thought to be due to community spread, as opposed to outbreaks in long-term care facilities, which pushed numbers up earlier in the pandemic. This likely reflects the fact that Canadians have been returning to workplaces, retail spaces and larger gatherings as provinces have loosened restrictions over the last few weeks.
The map was put together with data from the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group.
In Quebec, 489 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday.
The province’s health minister, Christian Dube, announced on Tuesday that two more regions in Quebec were moving from yellow (denoting regions in Level 2 - Early Warning) to orange (Level 3 - Alert). Laval and Outaouais joined Montreal, the Quebec City region and Chaudiere-Appalaches to make five regions of Quebec in Level 3.
Regions in Level 3 have extra measures to “target specific sectors of activity and settings where the risk of transmission is deemed higher,” according to the province.
Outaouais, which has had 1,157 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, is one of the regions with the highest levels of new cases in the province (50 to 99 per 100,000), according to the map released Thursday, along with the Quebec City area, Chaudiere-Appalaches, and Bas-Saint-Laurent.
Bas-Saint-Laurent has had 274 total confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. Capitale-Nationale has had 3,153.
Dube pointed out that the new cases are not necessarily following the same path as the first wave.
"We see that regions that have been spared such as Capitale-Nationale, Chaudiere-Appalaches during the first wave are now very affected by the virus," he said.
Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said on Monday that the province had officially hit a second wave after they reported 586 new cases.
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Although vast swaths of Ontario are seeing barely any new cases, in the most populated regions of the province it’s a different story. The province recorded 478 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, which is the highest number for a single day since May 2, when 511 cases were reported.
Most of these new cases are in Ottawa, Peel region and Toronto, with 90, 95, and 153 new cases respectively.
In the province’s capital, the COVID-19 case count reached the highest it has ever been last week since the start of the pandemic. Including the region around the city as well, the Edmonton area had 751 active cases of COVID-19 last Thursday, which was more than half of Alberta’s active cases at the time.
Within the city, the neighbourhoods with the highest active case count were Northgate with 109 cases, Northeast with 104 and Eastwood with 74.
The province as a whole reported 150 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing them to more than 1,500 active cases.
On the map showing hotspots, it appears as though two separate regions on British Columbia’s coast are experiencing a surge, but they actually are counted together -- both fall under the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and are assessed as one area.
There have been nearly 3,000 cases recorded in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, with more than 4,200 recorded in the neighbouring Fraser Health region. The new modelling showed that the Fraser Health region has had 20 to 49 new cases for every 100,000 people over the last two weeks, putting them in the second highest category on the map.
A new outbreak at Vancouver’s St. Paul's Hospital was discovered Tuesday, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.