The federal government has released its national projections for the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and how things could possibly get.
Even with strong containment measures, Canada’s top doctor unveiled that as many as 22,000 Canadians could die of COVID-19 in the coming months.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam along with other federal public health officials made it clear at a Thursday morning briefing in Ottawa that the modelling isn’t necessarily what will happen, but is part of the worst-case scenario.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says short-term estimates are more reliable and they are predicting that 500 to 700 people could die by the end of next week.
Within that same timeframe between Thursday and April 16, the models are estimating the total confirmed cases could rise to 32,000 – an increase of almost 13,000.
Officials outlined that the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada is doubling every three to five days, which is considered relatively positive when compared to the rest of the world, but suggested it is too early to tell if the virus is hitting its “peak.”
Although the numbers could be cause for concern, Dr. Tam pointed out that modelling isn’t perfect.
“It’s important to recognize that models are not a crystal ball and cannot predict what will happen. Models help us understand what could happen under various scenarios to allow us to prepare for the worst-case and drive public health action to enable the best possible outcome,” said Dr. Tam during the briefing in Ottawa. “All models have limitations.”
Officials continue to warn Canadians that if people don’t obey social distancing and self-isolation rules, the death toll could be much higher.
“If we let up, new chains of transmission will take off in our highly-susceptible population, and the epidemic will reignite,” she said. “If we are to not lose our hard-won progress, we must stay the course until we have reached a very low number of cases at the bottom of that first wave.”
As far as a timeline, the public health officer pointed to the virus dwindling in the fall if Canadians are disciplined, but suggested that it could linger until next spring or beyond if people don’t limit movements.
Dr. Tam added that “we cannot prevent every death, but we must prevent every death that we can.”
At the end of March, Dr. Bonnie Henry released the projections for BC and was cautiously optimistic about the trajectory the province was on with most people following social distancing rules.
With files to Canadian Press.