Health

Coronavirus in Canada: These charts show how our fight to 'flatten the curve' is going

Canada has more than 8,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19; concern continues to rise about the the disease gaining a foothold in nursing homes and other vulnerable communities.

Note: Data in the charts are as of March 31 at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

In recent days, the fears of public health officials across the country are coming true: COVID-19 has gained solid footholds in more and more long-term care centres. The daily briefings by provincial health experts only serve to highlight the trend. At least 36 residents and five staff have the coronavirus at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary. In British Columbia, there are now COVID-19 cases in 13 long-term care and assisted living homes in the province. And this morning, officials in Ontario revealed the death toll linked to an outbreak at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon had jumped to 13, with more than 20 of the home’s staff testing positive. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer, says it’s one of at least 10 long-term care homes reporting outbreaks in the province.

An outbreak can be particularly devastating when it hits vulnerable populations such as those in long-term care homes, correctional facilities or in marginalized or remote communities including First Nations and Inuit areas, in part because the health of residents is often compromised to begin with, and also because those centres can accelerate the spread of the virus to the surrounding communities. Indeed, a death linked to the care home in Bobcaygeon was the wife of one of the residents.

At her daily briefing, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, emphasized that the efforts by Canadians to self-isolate was crucial to forestalling the spread of COVID-19 to such vulnerable populations, especially as the number of confirmed cases in Canada is more than 8,500. In particular, she noted that, because all cases in the North were introduced by travellers, those governments were imposing restrictions of movement in an effort to forestall the virus getting established there.

The alarm is very real. Recently, a couple from Quebec arrived in the tiny community of Old Crow in the Yukon in an effort to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in southern Canada. Officials stopped them at the airport, isolated them and then sent them back to Whitehorse.

Indeed, anyone wishing to return to Nunavut needs permission from the territory’s chief public health officer. In addition, they “are required to isolate at designated facilities outside of Nunavut for a period of 14 days,” the government declared. So far, the territory hasn’t reported a single COVID-19 case. All three of Canada’s territories are testing their small populations at rates above that of Canada as a whole.

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

Why use logarithmic charts: COVID-19 is increasing at an exponential increase, which can overwhelm normal linear charts. In contrast, overall trends are apparent when compared using a logarithmic chart. To explain his popular COVID-19 logarithmic charts on the Financial Times website, data expert John Burn-Murdoch has this handy explanation: the space between 100 and 1,000 is the same as the space between 1,000 and 10,000, because exponential increases means it takes the same amount of time to go between those two milestones. That allows readers to easily see if jurisdictions are on following the same path or doing better or worse.

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)

(Patricia Treble and Lauren Cattermole)