OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo stressed Wednesday Canada is winning the battle against COVID-19, but still must prepare for a second wave.
Njoo, providing a modelling update, said transmission of the virus is largely under control across the country, with cases and deaths down steadily since the peak of COVID-19 in April.
“The epidemiology indicates that the transmission is largely under control in Canada, while also showing us that cases can emerge at any time or place,” Njoo said.
“The efforts and commitments shown by Canadians across the country over the past months have now shown us that we have been able to impact the pandemic, control transmission nationally, and begin the process of entering the next phase of monitoring and preventing a resurgence,” he added.
Njoo said the reproduction rate of the virus is less than one, meaning each new case infects less than one other person.
However, he cautioned the virus has not been eliminated, with outbreaks still occurring in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec, in long-term care homes and within the migrant worker community, in particular.
“We must stay alert and strengthen our response in areas where we continue to have cases in the community, and where we have experienced new outbreaks,” Njoo said.
On schools, masks
Njoo addressed the issue of schools opening again in the fall and said what B.C. and Quebec experienced with partial returns in late spring showed positive results.
“The question now is whether they could ramp it up and sort of more fully open school classes to kids in the fall. I think, bottom line is, that, in some ways, it is a bit of a social experiment and people need to appreciate that it is a bit of a risk management and risk tolerance.”
Ultimately, he added, the decision to open schools to more students is best left to local school boards.
Regarding mandatory mask requirements, Njoo said wearing them is a simple, effective and affordable health measure.
“Certainly, the evidence from around the world shows that it has been shown to decrease the overall transmission of the virus,” he said.
“I can certainly understand why local officials might want to make it mandatory, especially in larger cities.”
Toronto passed a bylaw on Tuesday requiring masks to be worn indoors, while Ottawa has a similar requirement.
Njoo said health officials also recognize cultural factors are involved in such decisions.
He thinks more could be done, though, in terms of education and awareness regarding masks and compared such societal change to making car seat belts mandatory.
“At the beginning, we talked about education and saying it saves lives, you automatically put on a car seatbelt when you go for a drive,” Njoo said.
“So that’s just another example of another healthy behavior that can save lives that, at the end of the day, based on the uptake, and then other factors, that’s the way it went for seatbelts. I can’t say that’s the way it’s gonna go for facemasks, but those are certainly some of the considerations in play.”
Njoo said Canada has not reported 106,167 cases of COVID-19, along with 8,711 deaths.
He said the recovery rate from the virus is 66 per cent.
Labs have tested more than three million Canadians for COVID-19, to date, while over the past week an average of 38,000 people were tested daily.